Maine's COVID hospitalizations continue to rise as infection rate drops

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Jun. 2—Maine hospitals reported a fourth consecutive daily increase in the number of patients with COVID-19, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

There were 193 hospitalized patients statewide as of Thursday morning, including 27 in critical care and four on ventilators, according to the CDC. The number has increased 18 percent over the past four days, a rebound that ended a sharp two-week decline. The number of patients hit a three-month high of 231 on May 17 before dropping to 163 on Sunday.

The state also reported Thursday there have been five additional COVID-related deaths in Maine.

The latest omicron subvariants that continue to spread widely in Maine cause relatively mild symptoms in most cases. But the rise in hospitalizations this week is a reminder that the virus can still be a serious health threat for some, especially people who are older or have underlying health conditions and those who do not have immunity from vaccinations or previous infections.

While the new strains are more likely to infect people with some level of immunity, health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinations and booster shots to reduce the risk of infection and serious illness.

Even as hospitalizations have risen, other signs such as daily case counts, positive test rates and wastewater testing continue to indicate virus transmission has declined from early May, the peak of the last wave of cases and hospitalizations.

The state reported 275 new COVID cases Wednesday, down from an average daily count of 803 in April. While the daily case counts do not include infections confirmed through at-home tests, they can still indicate if virus transmission is speeding up or slowing down.

And Maine and other New England states have seen infection rates drop as case counts have increased in other parts of the country, including in Florida and on the West Coast.

Maine recorded 180 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, compared to a national rate of 219 infections per 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine's seven-day infection rate topped 400 per 100,000 residents in early May, when the state had the nation's highest infection rate.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 263,714 cases and 2,351 deaths.

This story will be updated.