The COVID-19 surge statewide shows no signs of slowing down as the number of individuals requiring hospitalization and critical care continues to break records.

State health officials reported 778 new cases Wednesday, including 38 in Androscoggin County, 17 in Franklin County and 23 in Oxford County.

Fifteen out of Maine’s 16 counties Wednesday were considered to have a high level of community transmission, meaning that the seven-day total of new cases per 100,000 residents of each county exceeded 100. Sagadahoc County recorded a substantial level of community transmission.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask in indoor, public settings at substantial or high levels of community transmission.

The last date that community transmission was below those levels in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties was Aug. 22, when Androscoggin was considered to be at a moderate level. Franklin County flipped from moderate to substantial a few days earlier.

Oxford County has not dipped below a substantial or high level of transmission for over a month.

There were seven additional deaths reported Wednesday, none from the three counties.

The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases statewide hit 3.36 cases per 10,000 residents. Except Tuesday, when the rolling average was 3.32 cases per 10,000 residents, the last time the seven-day average exceeded 3.3 was in late April of this year.

The seven-day average of new daily cases was 2.67 per 10,000 residents of Androscoggin County, 2.77 cases per 10,000 residents of Franklin County and 2.01 cases per 10,000 residents of Oxford County.

At a media briefing Wednesday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said there are 2,900 positive test results awaiting review, acknowledging that case investigators are working through yet another week of backlogged results.

“We’ve added dozens of additional individuals, about three dozen additional individuals, who are focused on processing these, bringing the total number to about 145 or so,” Shah said.

All positive tests need to be confirmed to make sure they are not duplicate tests.

While the state did prepare for the likelihood that the delta variant could cause a surge in the cases, “even then, in that respect, we didn’t think that the onslaught of cases that we would be getting would be where we are right now,” Shah said.

The state received about 400 to 450 positive test results per day in January during the winter surge, he said.

“Today alone, we had over 620,” Shah said. “This is a peak upon a peak, greater than what we thought we were going to get.”

The testing volume increased by nearly 28% over the past week, Shah said, and he expects this backlog to continue for at least another week as new staff gets trained.

The state is also working to make testing more accessible, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said at the briefing, but did not name specifics.

For information on testing sites, go to maine.gov/covid19/testing. The list includes Walgreens stores in Auburn, Bethel, Farmington, Gray, Lewiston, Naples, Norway and Rumford.

Even though demand for testing outpaces the current supply, “what it doesn’t impact, for the most part, is how we think about COVID,” Shah said.

“That is to say hospitalizations remain one of the data points that we focus on, that tells us a lot of what’s going on,” which puts Maine in a tough spot.

As of Wednesday, 192 individuals were hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, 70 of whom were in critical care and 42 of whom were on a ventilator.

That’s the highest single day total of people requiring mechanical breathing assistance in Maine since the pandemic began.

Just shy of 17%, or 55 of the 332 critical care beds statewide were available Wednesday.

Providers at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston were caring for an average of 12 patients per day for the week ending Sept. 13, according to data provided by the hospital. That’s an average last seen during the spring surge, when CMMC and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, also in Lewiston, were slammed with a record high number of inpatients.

Of the 11 total patients at CMMC Monday, four were in the intensive care unit and three were using ventilators.

There was one COVID inpatient at Bridgton Hospital and none at Rumford Hospital as of Monday. The two community hospitals are a part of Central Maine Healthcare, CMMC’s parent organization.

St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center reported two COVID inpatients Wednesday and an average of 1.9 inpatients over the past seven days.

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