The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that 18 more people have died from COVID-19, bringing the total number of Mainers who have lost their lives to the disease since March 2020 to 1,002.

“Nearly 19 months after this pandemic began, today marks a grim and unwelcome milestone,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement. “Those we lost to COVID-19 are people we loved and cherished — parents, grandparents, siblings, children, loved ones and friends, all valued members of our Maine community.”

Of the 18 additional deaths reported Tuesday, two were residents of Androscoggin County and one from Franklin County. The individuals ranged in age from their 30s to 80 years and older, and seven were women and 11 were men.

Fourteen of the deaths were the result of a review of death certificates, 13 of which occurred between Aug. 27 and Sept. 10 and one that occurred in February, Maine CDC spokesperson Robert Long said.

Cumulatively, 92 residents of Androscoggin County, 18 residents of Franklin County and 71 residents of Oxford County have died from COVID.

“We mourn their passing and grieve for the moments they are no longer able to share with us,” Mills said. “Yet, we have it in our power to end this needless suffering and heartbreak; a way to protect our health and that of the people we love; a way to give our heroic doctors, nurses and other medical professionals a much-needed break; a way to protect our children — please get vaccinated today.”

Additionally, state health officials reported 632 new COVID-19 cases in Maine on Tuesday, including 26 in Androscoggin County, eight in Franklin County and 29 in Oxford County.

Community transmission of the virus remained at a high level for every county in the state except Sagadahoc, which is still at a substantial level of transmission.

The U.S. and Maine CDCs recommend that all individuals wear a mask in indoors, public settings when community transmission is at a substantial or high level. Community transmission is considered substantial when the seven-day total of new cases in a county is between 50 and 99 per 100,000 residents. A seven-day total at or above 100 cases per 100,000 individuals is considered high.

The surge in cases statewide continues to strain Maine’s hospital system. A record 225 individuals were hospitalized with COVID-19 Tuesday, an all-time record. The dates with the 10 highest single-day inpatient account all occurred within the past week or in January.

Of those hospitalized Tuesday, 82 were in critical care and 35 were on ventilators. About 14%, or 48 out of 342 critical care beds in Maine were available Tuesday.

“These are records no one wants to be setting,” Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said in a tweet Tuesday.

“If you are banking on a bed or an ICU — let alone monoclonal antibodies — as your strategy rather than getting vaccinated, you are miscalculating,” he tweeted.

Since the vaccine rollout began late last year, Franklin County has lagged behind much of the state in getting shots into arms. As of Tuesday, 54.8% of all residents there are fully vaccinated. That number increases to 61.8% when considering just eligible residents, or individuals 12 years or older. Statewide 64.9% of all residents are fully vaccinated. That number increases to 73.7% when considering just eligible residents.

The county has also emerged as a hot spot of new cases over the past week.

On every day since Sept. 16, the seven-day total of new COVID-19 cases in Franklin County has exceeded 350 cases per 100,000 residents. There have been 394.7 cases per 100,000 residents of Franklin County over the seven-day period ending Tuesday, which is about 100 more cases per capita than the county with the next highest rate.

Only Piscataquis, Penobscot and Somerset counties, respectively, have a higher community transmission rate than Franklin County.

The University of Maine system reported 44 active COVID-19 cases Monday, 12 of which were reported over the weekend. The University of Maine at Farmington had only one active case as of Monday.

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