Maine on Tuesday reported 862 new cases of COVID-19 over a three-day period and 12 additional deaths.
Hospitalizations also increased on Tuesday as the pandemic continues to hang on in Maine, driven largely by the virus spreading through unvaccinated populations.
Because the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not report cases over the weekend, Tuesday’s case counts reflect cases recorded on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Since the pandemic began, Maine has logged 105,121 cases of COVID-19, and 1,179 deaths.
The seven-day average of daily new cases stood at 467 on Tuesday, compared to 462.1 a week ago and 607.7 a month ago. Cumberland County – the most vaccinated county in Maine – had the least number of cases, a seven-day total of 156.3 per 100,000 population.
Maine’s least vaccinated county, Somerset, had the highest seven-day COVID-19 case total, at 497.2 per 100,000 population. Cumberland County’s vaccination rate is 79.9 percent of it’s total population, while Somerset County’s immunization rate is 59.9 percent. The statewide average is 70 percent.
Maine’s overall virus prevalence is 17th-highest in the country, with 35 daily new cases per 100,000 population, on a seven-day average, compared to 35 per 100,000 nationally. The virus is primarily spreading through unvaccinated populations, with 88 percent of all cases since vaccines became widely available occurring among those who have yet to get their shots, according to the Maine CDC.
Hospitalizations have also increased, with 216 Maine people hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, up from 203 two weeks ago. On Tuesday, 79 COVID-19 patients were in critical care, with 41 on a ventilator. About 70 percent of hospitalizations are among unvaccinated patients.
Meanwhile, Maine is gearing up for federal regulators to give final approval this week for vaccines for children ages 5-11. Pharmacies, doctor’s offices and school clinics are expected to launch soon to get “shots into arms” perhaps as soon as later this week.
“Maine’s initial allocation (this week) of COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds is expected to be 33,900 doses, which would be enough to provide first doses to approximately 42 percent of Maine residents who would become eligible if the U.S. CDC authorizes the Pfizer vaccine for that age group,” said Robert Long, Maine CDC spokesman. “Pharmacies and federal programs in Maine may receive additional doses. Subsequent allocations are expected to arrive on a weekly basis.”
Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, said, in a series of tweets on Monday about the science behind the vaccine for elementary-aged children, that the risk of a complication that has been discussed a lot in the media – myocarditis, or heart inflammation – is very rare.
“The risk of myocarditis is much lower from a vaccine than from COVID,” Shah said. “The risk of myocarditis from a COVID-19 (infection) is around 150 per 100,000 patients with COVID. So the risk of myocarditis is about 15 times lower from the vaccine than from COVID itself.”
Shah said the vaccine is safe and effective for adults and children.
“Every single pediatrician, family doctor and nurse practitioner I have spoken with says that they will vaccinate their own children as soon as the vaccine is available,” Shah said. “These are the professionals entrusted to care for children, so why not trust them on this?”
An influential U.S. CDC advisory panel voted Tuesday that all children ages 5 to 11 should get Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 shots, putting the U.S. on the brink of a major expansion of vaccinations – and a final decision was expected within hours.. If approved, shots could start being administered as soon as Wednesday or Thursday.