Maine health officials reported 575 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, pushing the state past 100,000 confirmed or probable cases since the start of the pandemic.

So far, roughly 1 in 13 Mainers have contracted the virus, although the rates are much higher in some areas, especially inland and in rural counties. The highest rate of overall infections is in Androscoggin County, where about 1 in 10 residents have gotten COVID-19. That’s twice the rate of Hancock County, which has the lowest case rate during the pandemic.

Despite the milestone and ongoing high levels of transmission, Maine’s per capita rate of overall cases, 7,425 per 100,000 people or 7.4 percent of the population, is still lower than every state except Vermont and Hawaii, and slightly more than half the national rate of 13,599 cases per 100,000 people. Those two states, plus Wyoming, are the only states that have yet to reach 100,000 cases.

As has been the case for months, vaccination rates remain low in many rural counties and among younger adults. Cumberland County has a rate of 77 percent, which leads all counties, while Somerset County has the lowest rate, at 55 percent.

Two additional deaths were reported Friday, bringing the state’s total to 1,115, according to data tracked by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine’s death rate of 82 per 100,000 people also is the third lowest of any state even though it has the oldest population.

The seven-day daily case average sits at 457, which is down from 517 cases two weeks ago but identical to the average this time last month.

The virus continues to spread in schools. According to data updated Thursday, there are 125 schools across the state that are dealing with an active outbreak of at least three cases that are epidemiologically linked. That’s up from 111 outbreaks last week. The number of cases associated with schools is 2,196.

Many, but not all, schools have universal masking policies to help combat spread of the virus. Officials in Auburn recently decided to institute a mask mandate at Edward Little High School following an outbreak there.

Transmission continues to be heaviest in counties with lower vaccination rates as the delta variant continues to spread throughout some states like Maine, while receding in other parts of the country that saw spikes in the summer.

The seven-day case average in the U.S. was just over 73,000 on Friday, about half what it was this time last month, according to the U.S. CDC. The country is averaging 1,252 deaths from COVID-19 per day, which is down 29 percent from 1,769 on average one month ago.

Hospitalizations decreased to 193 on Friday, down by 10 since Tuesday. Of those, 65 are in critical care and 26 are on ventilators. Recent hospitalizations have been dominated by unvaccinated individuals or by vaccinated people who are older and have other health problems, officials have said.

Maine’s current rate of hospitalization remains high even as hospitalizations have been falling nationwide in recent weeks. According to the U.S. CDC, the average number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 this week was 50,791, a decrease of 11 percent from the previous week.

As for vaccinations, the state has seen its numbers increase in recent weeks, although much of that is attributable to third doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which has been recommended for individuals 65 and older, those who are immunocompromised and those who work in high-risk fields.

The state had administered 900,088 final doses of vaccine as of Thursday, representing 67 percent of the state’s 1.3 million residents, according to the Maine CDC. Of those 12 and over who are eligible for inoculation, 76 percent are fully vaccinated. Additionally, the state has delivered 70,784 third doses.

That pace is likely to pick up even more following Thursday’s authorization of additional doses for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah posted Friday on Twitter his summary of current recommendations on boosters. He said for individuals who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the following groups should consider a booster six months after their initial series: Those 65 and older, and anyone 18 or older who live in long-term care settings, work in a high-risk setting or who have underlying medical conditions.

“For those who got the J&J vaccine, boosters are recommended for those who are 18 and older who were vaccinated two or more months ago,” Shah said. “So if you got J&J, get a second shot 2 months after the first one.”

He also confirmed that people can mix and match vaccines.

“Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received. Others may prefer to get a different booster,” he said. “You have options.”

Northern Light Health, one of the state’s largest health care providers, said Friday that it plans to begin online registration for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters on Monday and will begin administering shots on Thursday. Northern Light officials stressed that boosters should be prioritized for older individuals and those who are at high risk because of health conditions or their job.

“The most important thing we can do to stop serious illness from COVID-19 is to ensure that every eligible person completes their initial vaccination series,” the company said in a statement.

Children between 5 and 11 could be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine next month after the U.S. CDC’s advisory committee meets Nov. 2-3 to review data and make its recommendation. Health officials and schools across the state already have begun preparing to roll out shots to younger children.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: