Connie Allen, 84, of Buxton talks with a nurse before getting her second COVID-19 vaccine shot Friday at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. “I’m going to go into the mall and walk around. I haven’t been there since March. We used to go in every day and sit with our friends. Just get out. I’d love to go out to eat. I’m sick of cooking!” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — With more COVID-19 outbreaks here and there, Androscoggin County’s percentage of positive tests continued to inch up Tuesday to 5.19%.

That means Androscoggin County has the second-highest percentage among Maine’s 16 counties. York is the highest at 5.35%. The new statistics are a big jump for Androscoggin; The percentage over the past 28 days is only 1.6%.

Statewide, the rate of positive tests was 3.9%, according to Maine CDC statistics.

Asked what would he say to a nervous Androscoggin County resident watching cases climb, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the state has worked with providers to deliver more vaccines.

“This is a great time and great week to book a shot,” Shah said in his biweekly news briefing.

“We’ve worked with providers in Androscoggin County, the Auburn Mall, pharmacies including EMS providers to try to get vaccines to them,” he said. “This is a big week in the rollout, especially as more folks are becoming eligible.

“What I would say is, ‘I understand where you’re coming from. Rates are going up. They’re going up in Androscoggin County.’”

Now’s the time, he said, “to get online to find your shot.”

Find may be the operative word, especially on Wednesday as the eligibility age opens up to everyone 16 years and older. Competition will increase to find an appointment.

At the Auburn Mall clinic, administered by Central Maine Healthcare, Tuesday’s 850 slots and Wednesday’s 720 slots were filled within an hour of the appointments being offered, spokeswoman Ann Kim said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, “we have not yet opened up slots for this Friday and Saturday,” she said.

How many appointments are offered next week isn’t yet known, she said, until CMH learns the number of doses it will receive from the state.

Dr. Shah acknowledged Tuesday that statewide cases are up, but so are the numbers of people getting vaccinated.

Statewide, four out of 10 people have had their first shot.

In Androscoggin County, 35.3% of the population has received their first shot.

Corresponding percentages for Oxford County is 35.2%, Franklin, 35.09% and Cumberland, 45.83%.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew announced there is greater availability of vaccines, especially with a just-announced rollout of a FEMA mobile clinic that will visit Oxford on Monday, then continue to offer vaccines at other places around the state.

Asked about Gov. Janet Mills’ reference of wanting to see a clinic in Lewiston, Lambrew said the mobile clinic will visit Auburn, “and we continue to look at other options.”

More options are needed, she said, because Androscoggin County has more younger people. “We do anticipate that need is higher as we move to this new phase of eligibility,” which is anyone 16 and older are now eligible for a vaccine, she said.

With cases climbing, with questions about whether the state is continuing to ease COVID-19 restrictions, the best way to get back to normal, to get more students in classrooms “and do what we normally do this summer, especially with young people, is get vaccinated,” Lambrew said.

She and Shah recommended people take whatever appointment they can find.

“Don’t wait,” Lambrew said.

But if someone books one appointment then finds another closer, cancel the one that’s not going to be used, she said.

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