Medical staff at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston have been caring for 15 or more COVID-19 inpatients per day for 70 consecutive days. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide smashed yet another record Friday as providers at Central Maine Medical Center have been caring for at least 15 COVID-19 inpatients — and often more — every day for 70 consecutive days.

State health officials reported 391 people with the virus were in Maine hospitals Friday, which exceeded the previous all-time high of 387 inpatients set Dec. 21 of last year. Of those hospitalized as of Friday, 110 were in critical care and 59 were on a ventilator.

At central Maine’s largest hospital, the number of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 remains at a high level. There were 29 hospitalized at CMMC as of Thursday, nine of whom were in the intensive care unit and five of whom were on a ventilator, according to hospital data.

Providers at CMMC cared for an average of 26 patients per day over the seven-day period ending Thursday. The last time the seven-day average of COVID inpatients at CMMC dipped below 20 was on Nov. 4, 2021. The average then was 19.7 for the prior seven-day period.

At this point in the pandemic, hospitalization data provides epidemiologists with the most “granular” picture of how the virus is moving and changing within a community, Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention director, said at Wednesday’s media briefing.

“The metrics that tell us more on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month basis are less the daily changes in case counts and more and more what we know about hospitalization, the fraction of hospitalized patients who are in the ICU and the fraction of those patients who are on a ventilator,” he said.


He also noted that 70% of hospitalized individuals statewide as of Wednesday were not fully vaccinated.

Shah has said previously that the percentage of unvaccinated individuals in intensive care units or on a ventilator tends to be higher, at times upward of 90%.

Meanwhile, more people are testing positive for COVID than ever before as measured by the PCR positivity rate, which is percent-positivity of all molecular and antigen tests reported to the state. This includes lab-confirmed molecular tests and rapid antigen tests performed at pharmacies or other locations that are required to report positive results to the Maine CDC.

As of Friday, the seven-day PCR positivity rate for Maine hit 18.4%.

“This is by far the highest it has ever been in Maine throughout the pandemic, and tracks what our regional neighbors are also seeing in terms of their positivity rates,” Shah said at the briefing. The seven-day PCR positivity rate Wednesday was 18.05%.

He added that testing volume remains high: As of Friday, the state conducted an average of 685 PCR tests per 100,000 residents per day over the past seven days.

“That’s another way of saying that what’s driving things like the positivity rate right now are the number of positives being reported every day, not a contraction in the amount of testing that’s happening,” Shah said.

Omicron is likely driving the boost in the positivity rate. Although officially omicron accounts for about 9% of all new cases in Maine, “we know that this is an undercount,” Shah said.

“Indeed, likely a dramatic undercount,” he said.

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