Maine reports uptick in COVID hospitalizations

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Jun. 14—Maine reported an increase in the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 on Tuesday.

There were a total of 141 patients hospitalized statewide, including 19 in critical care and five on ventilators. That's up from 137 patients on Monday, but down from 169 on June 5 and from 231 patients on May 17.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention also reported 470 new cases on Tuesday, the first case count update since Saturday. Maine's seven-day average is 236 new cases per day, down from more than 800 new cases a day in early May.

Highly contagious omicron subvariants now account for the vast majority of cases in Maine and the CDC reported Monday that a new faster spreading strain, BA.4, was detected in the latest round of samples from infected residents.

BA.4 has caused increased infection rates in other parts of the world and some experts expect it to quickly spread through the United States and fuel another uptick in cases. It is now believed to account for more than 13 percent of cases in the U.S.

However, it does not appear to cause more severe symptoms than the other strains in circulation, so hospital patient counts are not expected to rise significantly.

The newest strains of the virus are able to infect people with some levels of immunity from previous infections or vaccinations, but health experts say staying up to date with vaccinations and booster shots still provides the best protection from infection and severe illness. An unvaccinated person is 19 times more likely to die from the disease than someone who has been vaccinated, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC.

Since the pandemic began, the state has recorded 266,575 cases and 2,405 deaths.