For the third week running, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 shattered records at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor even as patient counts flattened at most of the state’s other hospitals.

EMMC, the largest hospital in the eastern half of the state with 352 inpatient beds, saw an average of 51.9 COVID-19 inpatients per day for the week ending Thursday, up sharply from 44 the week before and 26.6 the week before that. Three weeks ago the figure was 12.1, and for much of the summer it stood near zero.

Despite the unprecedented burden, the hospital’s senior clinician again said that it is still able to handle the burden without canceling scheduled surgeries and other non-COVID-19 medical care.

“At this time we are able to maintain all of our critical and routine services, but continue to monitor bed capacity, staffing and resources, and will adjust accordingly,” Dr. James Jarvis, senior vice president at EMMC and physician incident commander for its parent entity, Northern Light Healthcare, said via email.

“We ask for the public’s assistance by wearing face coverings in public, avoiding gatherings outside of their household, practicing good hand hygiene and remaining at least 6 feet away from others,” Jarvis added. “Only together can we stop the spread of this devastating disease.”

Southern Maine Health Care Medical Center also had its heaviest week since the pandemic began in Maine in March. The 158-bed Biddeford hospital reported an average of 23.9 COVID-19 inpatients a day, up slightly from 20.1 last week and exceeding the previous record of 22.7 logged two weeks before that. The figure at York Hospital – a 48-bed hospital that recently experienced an outbreak of its own – remained flat at 8.6, down from a high of 8.7 two weeks before that.


Another small hospital, A.R. Gould in Presque Isle, also surpassed its previous high with an average of 3.6 COVID-19 inpatients each day, up from 1.4 last week. The 48-bed hospital didn’t have its first COVID-19 inpatient until Oct. 28. Aroostook County has seen a recent surge in cases, including outbreaks affecting residents and staff at several nursing homes. Of the 13 deaths reported by the state on Thursday, four were Aroostook County residents.

Maine Medical Center in Portland, the state’s largest hospital, saw its burden ease slightly to an average of 31.6 confirmed COVID-19 inpatients per day, down from 33.7 last week. The 613-bed hospital saw its heaviest burden three weeks ago when it stood at 36.7. Portland’s other hospital, Mercy, saw its burden fall significantly to 6.6 per day, down from 10.1 last week and 14.9 the week before that, which had been its heaviest of the pandemic.

Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick saw its burden fall to 7.9 per day, down from a high of 9.3 last week. MaineGeneral in Augusta was up to 12.1 per day from 11.4 last week, but below the 17.4 the week before that, which had been the 198-bed hospital’s worst.

Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston wasn’t able to report its weekly figures Thursday because of the New Year’s holiday.

Statewide, COVID-19 hospitalizations stood at 177 on Wednesday, below the high of 198 set on Dec. 14. Maine’s worst day of the initial spring surge saw only 60 COVID-19 inpatients.

Many smaller hospitals had COVID-19 patients this week. In addition to those previously mentioned, these included Franklin Memorial in Farmington, Sebasticook Valley in Pittsfield, PenBay Medical Center in Rockport, Inland in Waterville, Stephens Memorial in Norway, Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth, Mayo Regional in Dover-Foxcroft and Blue Hill Hospital.


For 2020 as a whole, MaineMed carried the heaviest total COVID hospitalization burden, with over 3,500 inpatient nights of care. It was followed by EMMC (1,791), SMHC (with over 1,420), and MaineGeneral (1,165) in that order.

The pandemic continues to rage across the country, with states reporting 229,349 positive tests and 3,808 deaths on Wednesday alone, substantially more than died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to The New York Times tracker. Maine has been one of the best performing states for much of the pandemic, but this week it surged ahead of Washington, Michigan, North Dakota, and several other states to place 43rd in terms of prevalence of the disease over the seven days ending Wednesday.

Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator in that they typically occur one to three weeks after a person is exposed to the disease, but unlike other metrics, it is not dependent on who and how many people were tested. They can end in three ways: Recovery, death or transfer to another facility.

The Press Herald’s survey is for the seven days ending Dec. 31. It compiles data received directly from the hospitals and hospital networks. The data does not include outpatients or inpatients suspected of having the virus but who were never tested. It includes most, but not all, of the state’s hospitals, accounting for the nearly all of the statewide hospitalizations reported each week by the Maine CDC.

Correction: This story was updated at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, to correct the year-end total burden of hospitalizations for the most-affected hospitals.

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