The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 12 additional cases of COVID-19 on Thursday as the state continues to see low infection rates headed into the busy summer season.

The 12 cases reported Thursday was the lowest daily figure since Sept. 28. There were no additional deaths.

The seven-day case rate fell to 26.3 on Wednesday, which is also the lowest weekly average in Maine since last September. That seven-day figure has been dropping steadily since early May, when the Maine CDC was averaging more than 10 times as many cases daily. The highest case rates of the now 15-month-long pandemic occurred in January, when new cases repeatedly topped 800 in a day.

At the same time, Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah on Wednesday echoed concerns raised by his federal counterparts that a new variant of the coronavirus, known as the delta variant, could threaten the state’s progress. While the current vaccines available in the U.S. appear to protect against the delta variant, more than 40 percent of Maine’s population – and roughly 35 percent of those age 12 and older who are eligible – are not fully inoculated against the disease.

Only four cases of the delta variant have been identified in Maine to date through genetic sequencing of a sampling of positive test results, although Shah said Wednesday that figure is “almost certainly an undercount.”

“To date, the delta variant is the most concerning variant that has been described and the one that, again, threatens to undermine the work we have done collectively over the past 15 or 16 months,” Shah said during his weekly briefing. “I strongly recommend, more so than ever, that again if you have been waiting on the sidelines determining whether or not to get vaccinated … now is the best time to do so.”

Maine CDC has reported 856 COVID-related deaths since the virus was first detected in the state in March 2020 as well as 68,889 confirmed or probable cases of the disease.

Hospitalizations have remained relatively steady in the past week, with the Maine CDC reporting 30 people hospitalized statewide as of Thursday morning. Fourteen of those individuals were in critical care beds and five were connected to ventilators.

In a tweet earlier Thursday morning, Shah noted that 29 of 31 people in hospitals with COVID-19 – or 94 percent – were not fully vaccinated against the disease.

“We are reaching the point where hospitalization for #COVID19 is preventable,” Shah said on Twitter. “Get vaccinated. #vaccinateME.”

Additionally, an Associated Press review of national data found that only 150 of more than 18,000 deaths in the U.S. in May – or 0.8 percent – were among people who were considered fully vaccinated. The other 99.2 percent of deaths included in the review were among unvaccinated individuals.

Health care providers had administered a total of 1,511,190 shots in the state since the campaign began in mid-December. Among those, 770,961 shots were final doses of either the two-shot regimen for the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single-shot vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson.

Maine has the second-highest full vaccination rate in the country after Vermont, followed by the other New England states and New Jersey, according to tracking by Bloomberg. The rate of vaccination in Maine and across the country has slowed dramatically in recent months, however, forcing public health officials to explore ways to convince others to get their shots.

Maine, for instance, is offering a sweepstakes prize equivalent to $1 for every person in the state who receives at least one dose of vaccine by July 4. Any Maine resident who has received at least one shot can register by 11:59 p.m. on June 30. The prize stood at $886,042 on Thursday.

Some businesses, events and family physician’s offices are also offering vaccine shots in addition to the vaccination clinics and walk-up opportunities available at health care facilities and pharmacies around the state. A list of vaccination sites at health care facilities and pharmacies is available online at maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites or by calling the state’s Community Vaccination Line at 1-888-445-4111.

Effective Friday, Northern Light Mercy Hospital is also changing its visitation rules.

The hospital and all associated facilities will now allow one visitor at a time (but no daily cap on visitors) for inpatient areas between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily as well as two parents or guardians with pediatric patients, space permitting.

In the emergency department, one person can accompany a patient, although pediatric patients are allowed two parents or guardians. Up to four family members will be permitted within inpatient areas during end-of-life situations, although the patient care team will manage those logistics. Visitors are still prohibited in COVID isolation units except in end-of-life situations.

For obstetrics, two visitors will be allowed at a time, space permitting.

Maine Medical Center in Portland announced similar changes to visitation policies earlier this week.


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