The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday reported 491 cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths, another high count contributing to a summer surge fueled by the delta variant of the virus.
Case counts exceeded 600 on both Thursday and Friday. As of Saturday, 160 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 around the state, with 56 in intensive care and 26 on ventilators. There were just 50 intensive care unit beds available of a statewide total 326.
Maine’s cumulative COVID-19 cases rose to 78,069 on Saturday. Of those, 56,129 have been confirmed by testing and 21,940 are considered probable cases of COVID-19. The seven-day average of new daily cases was 384, and the 14-day average was 315.
Nine hundred forty people have died with COVID-19 in Maine since the pandemic began.
The surge in new cases has been largely among the unvaccinated, however. On Friday, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, pointed out that about 66 percent of all Mainers have been fully vaccinated.
“This makes Maine one of the most vaccinated states in one of the more vaccinated countries, putting it among the most vaccinated places on the planet,” Shah said on Twitter.
By Saturday morning, Maine had given 850,570 people the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Among people 12 and older, the population currently eligible for vaccination, 71.82 percent are now fully vaccinated.
The statewide surge has forced the cancellations of some high school sports, as well as the Common Ground Fair, which would have taken place in September.
Amid the strain on hospitals from the rise in cases, Gov. Janet Mills announced on Thursday that she would delay a mandate that health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19. The deadline was moved from Oct. 1 to Oct. 29, to allow time for workers to get vaccinated, but also to give health care providers time to replace workers who refuse to get their shots and either quit or are fired.
The health care vaccination requirement excludes many of Maine’s health care facilities, however, including private physician practices and urgent care clinics. That includes not only individual medical practices but also some larger private practices such as InterMed and Martin’s Point.
A spokesman for the Maine Medical Association on Friday said that the group may ask Mills to include independent physicians in the mandate when the formal rule-making process for takes place this fall.
“We have heard from a number of private physician practices saying they would be interested in being included in the mandate,” spokesman Dan Morin said.
Maine as of Friday had recorded 2,059 “breakthrough” cases – which occur when a fully vaccinated person contracts COVID-19 – as well as 101 hospitalizations among fully vaccinated individuals.
But unvaccinated people still make up the vast majority of new cases – accounting for roughly 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. Research shows that vaccines provide strong protection against serious illness and death even if a vaccinated person catches COVID-19.
County by county as of Saturday, there had been 8,915 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 2,587 in Aroostook, 18,638 in Cumberland, 1,548 in Franklin, 1,723 in Hancock, 7,284 in Kennebec, 1,376 in Knox, 1,251 in Lincoln, 3,936 in Oxford, 8,003 in Penobscot, 813 in Piscataquis, 1,595 in Sagadahoc, 2,727 in Somerset, 1,622 in Waldo, 1,090 in Washington and 14,956 in York.
All Maine counties had “high” levels of transmission under the CDC’s tiered system, except for Lincoln and Sagadahoc. Masks are recommended indoors even for vaccinated people in counties where transmission is “substantial” or higher.
By age, 19.3 percent of patients were under 20, while 18.4 percent were in their 20s, 15.2 percent were in their 30s, 13.3 percent were in their 40s, 14.2 percent were in their 50s, 10.1 percent were in their 60s, 5.3 percent were in their 70s, and 4.2 percent were 80 or older.
Around the world on Saturday, there were 219.9 million known cases of COVID-19 and over 4.5 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 39.8 million cases and 647,593 deaths.