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Apr. 13—Maine health officials reported 571 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the biggest single-day total since the tail end of the post-holiday surge in late January.
Two additional deaths were reported as well.
Although Tuesday's total was high, it represented positive results that came into the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention over the last four days. Because of the high volume of tests, staff has not been able to analyze and verify all results in a given day. Of the new cases, 51 were from Monday, 149 were from Sunday, 166 from Saturday and 205 from last Friday.
"As Maine CDC continues to review and process cases we may, from time to time, have spikes of this nature," explained Dr. Nirav Shah, the agency's director.
Nevertheless, new cases per day have more than doubled on average in the last month, driven largely by younger residents who have not yet been vaccinated against the virus. Of the 571 new cases Tuesday, 297 of them, or 52 percent, were in individuals under the age of 30, and another 140 cases, or 25 percent, were people in their 30s.
By contrast, just 33 cases, or 6 percent, were in those 60 or older, who are at highest risk of death. Of Maine's 753 COVID-19-related deaths, 709, or 94 percent, have been individuals age 60 or older.
The state's seven-day daily case average now stands at 370 cases, up from 214 cases two weeks ago and from 175 this time last month. Since the pandemic began, there have been 54,827 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 and 753 deaths, according to data tracked by the Maine CDC.
Hospitalizations also are increasing to levels not seen in two months, a trend Shah called "notable and concerning." As of Tuesday, there were 96 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine, including 36 in critical care and 13 on a ventilator. The last time that many people were in critical care was Feb. 6.
Asked what was driving the surge in cases, Shah cited several factors. He said some of the spread is linked to more highly transmissible coronavirus variants, especially the variant that was first detected in the United Kingdom. Maine has detected just 27 cases of that variant through a process called genome sequencing, but the actual number is likely much higher because only a small percentage of positive tests are sent to labs for sequencing. There also have been two cases of the variant first found in Brazil in Maine, as well as five cases of the South African variant.
The increase in cases and hospitalizations comes as Maine works to vaccinate as many people as possible. That progress was dealt a setback on Tuesday when the U.S. CDC and the Food and Drug Administration announced that they were recommending a pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccines after a small number of women who received the vaccine experienced unusual blood clots. Maine said it will follow the federal recommendation.
Cases have been surging in other states as well. The seven-day average in the United States was just over 69,000 cases on Monday, a 28-percent increase over the last three weeks, but still well below the peak of more than 250,000 daily cases in early January.
Some states are being harder hit than others. Cases in New Hampshire have increased by 60 percent in that time and cases in Michigan have spiked by 120 percent.
"Don't declare victory prematurely," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday. "We see so many pulling back on some of the public health measures: the mask mandates, the restaurant openings, the bars. We can't be doing that. We've got to wait a bit longer until we get enough vaccine into people that we will clearly blunt any surge."