Delta ~ Rising COVID-19 Case Rates ~ Schools ~ Assistance ~ Staying safe
By Amy Harris
Staying home when sick, getting tested when exposed, wearing a mask indoors in public spaces, and getting vaccinated are the most important steps Mainers can take to stay safe and healthy as our state continues to ride out this current surge of the Delta virus.
Delta continues to drive rising COVID-19 case rates
Mainers younger than 20 represented the largest number of new cases in the state this past week, while Mainers over 80 years old made up the majority of deaths.
More school outbreaks
The Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) has identified active outbreaks of COVID-19 in 14 schools around the state, just two weeks into the school year. Outbreaks are defined as three or more cases in one school.
Dr. Nirav Shah, Director of the Maine CDC, discussed these school outbreaks in his briefing this week. He said that more cases are being identified in schools, but also said these school outbreaks might be a result of more testing in the school setting compared to testing during the summer break. In other words, the numbers might not represent a big jump in coronavirus prevalence in school-aged children. He said that pooled testing in schools is an effective way to prevent community spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Pooled testing helps stop community spread of COVID
Pooled testing tries to identify COVID-19 cases before outbreaks occur or before symptoms show. A single sample is made from the entire class’s saliva, and if the pooled test is positive, then everyone in the class is individually tested. Out of 450 total pooled tests conducted this past week across Maine, the Maine CDC reported 13 positive pool results. Pooled testing in schools is voluntary. Parents need to give their permission in order for their children to participate in pooled testing.
Quarantine if not feeling well, or if a close contact
Staying home when not feeling well is one of the most important ways to stop the spread of the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. If someone is a student at a school that has an outbreak, is identified as a close contact of students infected with COVID-19, and is unvaccinated, then that person must quarantine for 14 days. By contrast, exposed vaccinated students do not need to quarantine. However, exposed vaccinated students should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms, and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative. Vaccinating children who are older than 12 will help them miss fewer days of in-person learning and prevent them from having to miss extracurricular activities like team sports. To get help finding a place to quarantine, or getting food during isolation periods, the Maine CDC COVID-19 Community Support Team can help.
The vaccine is the best way to stay safe as hospitalizations rise
More than 95.14% of COVID-19 cases since the vaccine rollout have been in unvaccinated Mainers. In his weekly briefing, Dr. Shah estimated that about 70% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are not vaccinated. In addition, almost 90% of those in intensive care (the most severely ill) are not vaccinated.
Maine’s hospitals have entered a “deeply concerning phase,” according to Dr. Shah. Infections with the Delta variant cause more cases because this variant is more easily transmitted. More positive cases result in more hospitalization of the unvaccinated. This past week more than 184 Mainers required hospitalization, compared to 160 people hospitalized last week, with 12 more people in the ICU and 10 more patients on ventilators compared to last week.
The Maine CDC reported that Maine’s hospitals have started postponing elective procedures for people with other kinds of illnesses – even serious ones – and are delaying necessary health care for non-COVID patients, in order to provide care to the very sick COVID-19 patients filling hospitals. Being vaccinated saves a bed, a doctor, or a ventilator, so it is available when someone needs it.
In the words of Dr. Shah: “Your choice not to get the vaccine impacts the lives of all those people refused health care in order to care for a COVID-19 patient.”
The 7-day average number of cases: 348.9 (up from 333 last week)
Number of deaths in the past week: 8
Vaccination rate: 72.5% of eligible Mainers are fully vaccinated
Hospitalizations: 184 (71 in the ICU, 36 on ventilators) on Saturday, September 10.