Friday marked another grim milestone in the pandemic: Androscoggin County surpassed 10,000 cumulative cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are signs that the pandemic’s fourth wave may be easing, however. New cases statewide Friday dropped below 500 for the first time since early September as state health officials reported 467 new cases statewide. There were 34 new cases in Androscoggin County, 18 in Franklin County and 11 in Oxford County, bringing the cumulative case count since the pandemic began to 10,026; 1,974; and 4,625, respectively.
There were four additional deaths on Friday, three of whom were residents of Penobscot County and one from York County. Three of the individuals were women and one was a man; they were in their 40s, 60s, 70s and 80 years or older.
Maine has recorded 94,348 cases of COVID-19 and 1,070 deaths since March 2020.
Hospitalizations statewide have decreased significantly over the past week, following a couple of weeks of record-breaking highs. As of Friday, 153 individuals were hospitalized due to COVID in Maine hospitals, which is down from 211 one week ago and 225 the week before that.
There were 46 COVID inpatients in critical care, 22 of whom were on a ventilator.
While hospitalizations overall have decreased in Maine, Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston saw an increase over the past week.
For the seven-day period ending Thursday, providers there were caring from an average of 18.3 patients per day, compared to a week earlier when the seven-day average was 12.1.
There was a total of 18 COVID inpatients at CMMC on Thursday, including four in the intensive care unit and one on a ventilator. The total hospitalizations there are similar to the numbers CMMC saw during May and April of this year, when the hospital dealt with its highest numbers ever.
Dr. Alan Teng, chief of critical care for CMMC, said last month that his team is prepared for periodic surges in patients.
“It’s, quite frankly, part of the job,” he said. “What’s different about the pandemic, however, is that sometimes it feels as though the surge is persistent and tenacious. There’s no lead-up.”
Of the 518 days where there has been at least one COVID patient at CMMC, as of Thursday there had only been 26 days where there were 18 or more patients.
At a media briefing Wednesday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said that although Maine’s overall vaccination rate is high – one of the best in the country at nearly 75% of all eligible Mainers fully vaccinated – so long as vaccination coverage is spread unevenly across the state, “the virus has room to run.”
As of Friday, 68.2% of Androscoggin County residents, 62.7% of Franklin County residents and 64.1% of Oxford County residents were fully vaccinated.
“It doesn’t just matter how many people in a state are vaccinated, it matters where they are in relation to others,” Shah said. “So, in a state where everyone was uniformly vaccinated across the entire state, rates might be lower.”
Franklin and Oxford counties are among only four counties statewide that have yet to fully vaccinate at least two-thirds of their eligible population.
“But where in a state like Maine, there are pockets of high vaccination and pockets of low vaccination, the virus still has room to run,” he said.
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