Ten of Maine’s 16 counties are now seeing high transmission of COVID-19, based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards, while the other six are seeing substantial transmission.

Maine health officials Tuesday reported 475 new cases of COVID-19 for the three-day period from Saturday through Monday. Two additional deaths were reported as well, a man in his 40s and a man in his 60s.

Of the new cases reported Tuesday, roughly one in four were in Penobscot County, which has seen 250 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days. The U.S. CDC defines high transmission as at least 100 cases per 100,000 people and substantial transmission as at least 50 cases per 100,000 people. Under U.S. CDC guidelines, masks are now recommended in all Maine counties for public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status.

The most recent county breakdown offers some additional evidence that the virus is spreading more rapidly in areas where vaccination rates are lower. Of the five counties with rates of at least 200 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days – Aroostook, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Somerset and Waldo – none has reached a vaccination rate of 60 percent.

Overall, the seven-day daily new case average now sits at 262, an increase from 176 two weeks ago and from 80 cases on average this time last month. The seven-day positivity rate, or the percentage of all tests that come back positive, is 4.6 percent, compared to a low of 0.45 percent at the beginning of July.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 75,856 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 and 932 deaths, according to data tracked by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cases are no longer processed on weekends, which means Tuesday’s total reflects all cases from Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine increased by six to 142 Tuesday, but the numbers in critical care (66) and on ventilators (23) decreased slightly over the previous day. Hospitalizations have more than tripled in less than a month, putting tremendous strain on the hospital system in Maine.

Across the country, 94 percent of all counties are seeing high virus transmission. The seven-day case average in the U.S. is about 129,000 this week, which is down slightly from nearly 150,000 cases on average last week, but double what it was just one month ago.

As of late last week, the average number of daily deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. stood at 970, the highest it has been since mid-March. Overwhelmingly, those dying from or being hospitalized with the virus are not vaccinated.

With the rapid spread of the delta variant, which is both highly transmissible and can lead to more severe symptoms for some, there has been increased attention on cases in children, especially children under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine. Concerns are even more heightened this week as children across the state are going back to school.

The Maine CDC on Monday updated its data on youth cases, and the numbers continue to show that although young people are contracting the virus at a steady rate, they have been largely spared from serious illness. Among all cases reported since March 2020, 22,227 (or nearly 30 percent) have been among those under the age of 25. However, just 51 of those cases has resulted in hospitalization, or just over 2 percent of all hospitalizations.

Last week, the CDC was dealing with a significant backlog of test results. Agency spokesman Robert Long said Tuesday that all of those tests have been processed, “but we are receiving similarly high volumes of test results each day.”

“We have redeployed staff to help handle the high daily volume of results, but the change in cumulative cases each day this week will likely reflect processing of results received over multiple days,” he said.

Vaccinations, meanwhile, have increased over the last few weeks as the delta variant has spread rapidly and as more employers and colleges have instituted vaccine mandates.

Between Aug. 22 and Aug. 28, the state averaged 2,462 shots per day, the highest daily average since mid-June and a 10-percent increase over the previous week, according to CDC data.

The average number of daily vaccinations has been rising steadily across the U.S. for more than a month and has reached its highest point since early July, according to Bloomberg, which has been tracking vaccinations across the world.

In Maine, 844,033 final doses of vaccines have been administered overall, which accounts for 62.8 percent of all residents and 71.3 percent of those 12 and older who are eligible.

The rate of vaccination in Maine has been highest among older residents. Among those 60 or older, 88.9 percent are fully vaccinated. Among those between the ages of 20-39, the rate is 58.6 percent.

Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah said Monday that the risk of being infected with COVID-19 right now is eight times greater for those who are unvaccinated.

Third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now being offered to Mainers who are immunocompromised and additional doses will be available in late September for others who received their vaccines in the first wave back in December and January. A booster for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has not yet been authorized.

Shah said people who are eligible for a third dose should feel comfortable scheduling it when appropriate, but he also said the state’s main focus is getting people who have yet to be vaccinated their first dose.


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