State health officials reported 340 additional cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and four more deaths even as Maine’s vaccination campaign enters its fifth week.

Maine surpassed a morbid milestone this weekend when total deaths among individuals with COVID-19 exceeded 500 following a spike of 30 new deaths reported on Saturday. The bulk of those deaths — 23 of the 30 — had occurred in recent weeks but the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention added them to the state’s total on Saturday after a review of vital records.

With the 340 additional cases reported Sunday, Maine’s seven-day rolling average stood at 611 new infections daily compared to an average of 530 new cases daily one week ago and more than triple the seven-day average reported in early December. Reports of new cases often lag on weekends because of a slowdown in testing. Maine had several days last week when daily cases topped 800.

The number of deaths among individuals with COVID-19 in Maine has more than doubled since Dec. 1 from 214 to the 511 reported as of Sunday. Two of the four additional deaths reported Sunday occurred among Cumberland County residents while the other two were residents of Somerset and York counties. Two of the individuals were age 80 or older, one was in their 60s and the fourth person was in their 70s.

 

 

To date, Maine CDC has tracked 33,559 total cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, with 27,511 of those confirmed through molecular testing and 6,048 considered probable following an antigen test.

There were 205 people hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide as of Sunday morning – up from 194 hospitalizations reported on Saturday – and 66 people were being treated in intensive care units, with 26 individuals connected to ventilators. The Maine CDC reported there were 87 ICU beds available statewide on Sunday along with hundreds of traditional ventilators or alternative ventilators.

Maine is entering its fifth week of what is expected to be a monthslong vaccination campaign.

As of Sunday, health care providers had administered 78,084 total vaccination shots in Maine. That includes 66,314 first doses in the two-shot regimen as well as 11,770 second doses.

State health officials have been moving to begin inoculating Maine residents age 70 and older and individuals with high-risk medical conditions as part of the next phase of vaccinations. But the pace of those vaccinations remains unclear amid major confusion about whether states will receive an anticipated increase in doses from the federal government following revelations that Operation Warp Speed had already exhausted reserve doses.

“This means the anticipated increase in doses that may have started coming into states from clearing out the shelves may not happen,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said during Friday’s briefing. “Maine may be continuing with our current supply constraints for the foreseeable future.”

Maine is currently in Phase 1A of its vaccination plan, which has been focused on inoculating hospital staff and other health care professionals, first responders and residents or staff of long-term care facilities. Police, firefighters and workers involved in COVID-19 response, including Maine CDC employees and workers at facilities involved with testing or test supplies, are also now in Phase 1A.

Last week, the administration of Gov. Janet Mills announced plans to potentially begin vaccinating Mainers age 70 or older, as well as adults with high-risk medical conditions, starting this week as it shifts to Phase 1B. Depending on supplies and how quickly those doses can be pumped into people’s arms, the Mills administration had hoped to also vaccinate those between ages 65 and 69 during Phase 1B.

The administration said it plans to announce additional details of the Phase 1B vaccination plan this week. Essential front-line workers are also slated for vaccination during Phase 1B, although the administration has yet to identify who would be eligible. A federal advisory committee has recommended vaccinating teachers, grocery store employees, postal workers, public transit employees, day care workers and people involved in food-agricultural production during the “essential workers” phase.

Vaccinations for the rest of Maine’s adult population are not expected to begin until late spring or summer at the current pace.

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