COVID-19 hospitalizations spiked Monday in Maine, increasing by 22 patients in one day as the delta variant surge maintains its hold on the state.

Maine reported 223 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, compared with 201 on Sunday. Hospitalizations peaked at 235 patients on Sept. 25, declined to 152 by Oct. 7, but have increased again during the past two weeks.

A total of 81 patients are in critical care units, also close to the highest level during the pandemic, the state reported Monday. Of those critically ill patients, 30 are breathing with the assistance of ventilators.

The overwhelming majority of those hospitalized have either been unvaccinated or are fully vaccinated but older with other serious health conditions, according to health officials.

The high number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 has reduced services for other patients; some hospital systems have delayed elective surgeries, such as knee and hip replacements.

Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are among a small number of states to experience rising hospitalization numbers right now. Across the U.S., hospitalizations continue to decline steadily. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 49,033 people hospitalized on average during the week of Oct. 15-21. That was down 11 percent from the previous week and nearly 50 percent from early September at the height of the delta variant surge.

The Maine CDC does not process COVID-19 tests on weekends anymore, so the number of new cases Monday was unavailable, but virus transmission continues to be high in Maine. The state health agency is expected to post updated case counts Tuesday.

The state reported 585 new cases Saturday, along with seven additional deaths. The seven-day daily case average is now 463, down slightly from 497 two weeks ago but virtually unchanged from the 466 cases per day Maine was seeing this time last month.

The national seven-day case average has declined more than 40 percent over the past month, from roughly 120,000 per day a month ago to 70,000 cases currently.

On the vaccination front, 906,258 Maine people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or 67.4 percent of the state’s 1.3 million population.

Federal regulators are on the verge of approving COVID-19 vaccines for ages 5-11, with a Food and Drug Administration advisory board set to meet Tuesday to potentially recommend the Pfizer vaccine, followed by a similar U.S. CDC advisory committee next week. If the CDC advisory committee gives the green light, federal regulators could approve the vaccine for use quickly.

That means the vaccine rollout for elementary-aged children could begin as soon as next week, setting the stage for a significant increase – possibly 5-7 percent – in the percentage of the state population that is immunized. About 100,000 schoolchildren would become eligible.

The higher the overall vaccination rate, the stronger likelihood that reductions in COVID-19 transmission will be long-lasting, public health experts have said. Also, school children, because they interact with large numbers of children and adults at school, can be vectors of the disease.

Maine is expected to offer the vaccine to newly-eligible schoolchildren at school-based clinics, pediatrician’s offices and drug stores, among other places.


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