Maine COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations hold steady, but some signs point to faster spread

·2 min read

Jul. 14—The number of hospital patients with COVID-19 and the official count of new cases continue to hold steady in Maine, but some signs indicate the virus is spreading faster.

There were 114 patients with the virus statewide on Wednesday morning, including 11 in critical care and two on ventilators, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The overall number is down from 115 on Wednesday, although Maine hospitalizations have fluctuated between 110 and 130 for the past three weeks with no sustained increases or decreases.

Nationwide, meanwhile, the number of hospital patients with COVID-19 has been rising steadily and increased 14 percent over the past week.

The state also reported 244 new cases and one additional COVID-related death. The state's seven-day average of new cases is now 208 per day. The state's official case count does not include people who confirm infections with at-home tests.

Although not conclusive, some data indicate the virus spread has accelerated in Maine this week.

The state has seen an uptick in the number of people who are going to clinics, medical offices or pharmacies to get tested for the virus, and a higher percentage of those tests are coming back positive.

A total of 3,287 tests were reported to the state on Wednesday, and 311 of those tests were positive. Both were the highest daily numbers in three weeks. The percentage of tests coming back positive has also increased this week, rising above 12 percent Sunday and standing at 9.5 percent Thursday, according to CDC data.

Data from wastewater testing around the state continues to produce mixed results, with some showing higher prevalence of the virus and others showing declines. Virus counts in many of the larger wastewater districts, including those serving Greater Portland, had not yet been updated this week. Samples tested earlier this week in Lewiston-Auburn showed an increase in virus prevalence there.

New, more-contagious omicron subvariants — BA.4 and BA.5 — have driven up cases and hospitalizations around the world and are now believed to be causing the majority of new infections in Maine. The latest state data shows the two strains having spread quickly in recent weeks and accounting for nearly 50 percent of new infections as of June 26.

While the omicron subvariants are less likely to cause severe symptoms than earlier versions of the disease, health officials say older people with underlying conditions, as well as younger, unvaccinated people, are still showing up in hospitals and needing care. Health experts continue to urge people to get vaccinations and booster shots if they are eligible.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 272,605 cases and 2,464 deaths.