UPDATE! According to Dr. Nirav Shah, on September 9 Maine is recording the highest number of people in intensive care for the whole pandemic. 193 people are in the hospital, and 38 are on a ventilator.  Experts recommend masking or double masking when inside in a public space and getting vaccinated as soon as possible unless a doctor has counseled against it because of a medical condition. 

By Amy Harris

Maine continued to see an upward trend in COVID-19 cases statewide as students headed back to school this past week. On Saturday, September 3, the Maine CDC reported 496 new positive cases of COVID-19 compared to just 21 new cases two months ago in early July.

Delta Variant Responsible for Nearly All of Maine’s New Cases

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), the Delta variant has accounted for 98.1% of positive cases that have been genetically sequenced in the month of August.

Hospital Beds Filling Up With the Seriously Ill

The numbers of people seriously ill with COVID-19 also rose in the past week. On September 3rd, 160 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 59 in intensive care and 26 on ventilators. There were just 34 intensive care unit beds available on August 26 out of the statewide total of 332 ICU beds, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, the Director of the Maine CDC.

Vaccination Rates and Breakthrough Cases Worrying

As of 10 a.m. on September 5, the Maine CDC reported that 68% of Maine’s population had received their first dose of the vaccine, and 71% are fully vaccinated. These high rates of vaccination led Dr. Shah to tweet: “Maine [is] one of the most vaccinated states, in one of the more vaccinated countries, putting it among the most vaccinated places on the planet!”

On September 3, Maine recorded 2,059 breakthrough cases. Breakthrough cases occur when a fully vaccinated person contracts COVID-19. Most breakthrough cases do not result in hospitalization.

Unvaccinated people make up the vast majority of new cases – nearly 95 percent of the 42,386 new infections and 90 percent of the 960 hospitalizations that have been reported in Maine since the first date when Mainers could be fully vaccinated .

Most Maine Counties Now Reaching High Levels of Transmission

All of Maine’s counties reached “high” or “substantial” levels of transmission over the past month’s surge. The CDC recommends wearing masks indoors and in public areas.

Back to School with Masks On

Because there is no vaccine currently approved for children under the age of 12, the U.S. CDC currently recommends that everyone in K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask. Not all school districts in Maine have mandated that children and employees wear masks as they return to in-person learning this fall.

Vaccines Protect Healthcare Providers and You

On August 12 Governor Mills announced that health care workers in Maine must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 1, saying that a fully-vaccinated healthcare workforce protects the health and lives of all Maine’s residents in the midst of the continuing pandemic.The Mills’ administration later delayed enforcement of this rule until October 29 in order to provide additional time for health care workers and employers to get vaccinated.