Maine CDC reports 217 new COVID-19 cases – Portland Press Herald – Press Herald

State health officials reported 217 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday but no additional deaths.

Cases numbers are once again rising steadily in Maine after an early-summer lull that raised hopes that the state and much of the rest of the nation was emerging from the pandemic. Over the past seven days, Maine has averaged 149 new cases per day compared to an average of just 18 cases for the week ending on July 7.

The steady rise in case numbers has begun to result in more hospitalizations, which typically lag case increases by two to three weeks. On Wednesday, there were 60 inpatients with COVID-19 in Maine hospitals, including 28 people in critical care beds, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The last time 60 or more people were hospitalized with the disease was June 6.

To date, the Maine CDC has reported 71,883 total confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 as well as 901 deaths linked to the viral disease. The vast majority of those cases and deaths occurred between the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021 before vaccines became widely available in the U.S. Maine continues to have one of the nation’s lowest infection and death rates.

But this latest spike in cases — likely driven by the high contagious delta variant of the coronavirus — is causing concern because roughly 39 percent of the state’s population of 1.3 million remains unvaccinated. About 160,000 of those unvaccinated individuals are children under age 12 who are still too young for shots under the current federal authorizations.

Maine is also seeing an uptick in outbreaks, including at hospitals and assisted living or long-term care facilities. On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Gov. Janet Mills said the administration is “seriously considering” requiring all health care workers in the state to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Maine’s two largest health care providers, MaineHealth and Northern Light Health, have announced plans to require all staff to be vaccinated as has Millinocket Regional Hospital.

Roughly 69 percent of Maine residents age 12 or over have received the full regimen of doses necessary to be considered fully vaccinated against the disease. There have been more than 700 so-called “breakthrough” infections of fully vaccinated individuals, although health officials stress that inoculated people are much less likely to develop a severe enough case requiring hospitalization or causing death.

According to case rate metrics used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks are recommended in indoor public settings for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in 14 of Maine’s 16 counties. The recommendation, which has been embraced by the Maine CDC, is based on a community transmission rate of at least 50 cases for every 100,000 residents in those counties.

Androscoggin, Aroostook, Cumberland, Franklin, Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset, Washington and York counties all have substantial levels of transmission, based on Maine CDC case data updated Wednesday. Waldo County was the only location with high levels of community transmission.

Kennebec and Sagadahoc counties were experiencing moderate transmission rates.

This story will be updated.

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