As one COVID-19 surge in Maine appears to wane, another seems to appear, thanks to increasingly contagious strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Just as quickly as the number of people hospitalized with COVID earlier this month shot up to levels not seen in Maine since the height of the omicron-fueled surge in February, numbers came back down this week.

As of Tuesday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 184 individuals hospitalized with COVID, compared with the peak of 231 recorded one week ago. There were 20 people in critical care Tuesday, two of whom were on ventilators. A week ago, there were 38 people listed in critical care, with four on ventilators.

There were nine people hospitalized at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston as of Tuesday, two of whom were in critical care. At nearby St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, two individuals were hospitalized with COVID.

The “good news” is that the hospitalization numbers may not be a reflection of the severity of the disease so much as the level of community transmission, Dr. Dora Anne Mills, MaineHealth’s chief health improvement officer, said last week on Maine Public’s call-in show, “Maine Calling.”

Many patients are “coincidentally positive,” meaning that they are hospitalized for a reason other than COVID and happen to test positive upon admission, Mills said. About 40% of MaineHealth patients, which includes those hospitalized at Maine Medical Center in Portland, happen to be positive.


It still remains to be seen if infections are waning, as state health officials reported 836 new cases Tuesday, but the drop in hospitalizations may be a sign that the worst of this surge has passed.

Wastewater samples taken from the Lewiston-Auburn water treatment facility last week show that virus levels dropped compared to the week prior. Health officials, including Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah, have said that at this point in the pandemic, hospitalizations and wastewater surveillance data are a more accurate indicator of the virus’s spread in a community, as opposed to daily case counts.

While new variants are proving to be increasingly contagious, health officials continue to emphasize the importance of vaccinations.

“(COVID) is killing fewer people, it’s causing less severe illness, we think particularly because of our high vaccination rates,” Mills said on “Maine Calling.”

As of Tuesday, nearly 80% of all Mainers five years and older have received their initial vaccination series. Across the tri-county region, vaccination rates were lower in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties, 71%, 65% and 67%, respectively, where residents had received either one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

“And particularly if you’ve got a booster shot … you’re in much better shape,” Mills said. Individuals with a second booster are even more protected, with the risk of contracting COVID cut in half compared with just one booster shot, she said.

As of last week, all individuals 5 years and older are eligible for a booster shot. And for those eligible for a second booster – individuals 50 years or older or those 12 years or older who are immunocompromised – shouldn’t wait to get it, Mills said.

“I would say we have a surge now. So, I wouldn’t wait. There’s a lot of COVID right now and that second booster does boost your immunity, particularly if you’re in those categories and it’s going to be very safe,” she said.

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