Maine breaks another COVID-19 record, reporting 748 new cases

Government health officials reported a record 748 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, beating the previous one-day highest set last week by more than 150 cases.

Maine has now gone over 20,000 confirmed or probable cases since the pandemic began. Half of these have come in just over a month, as the state is struggling with a persistent wave while vaccines begin to be administered.

Eight more deaths were also reported on Wednesday, increasing to what has already been the deadliest month. So far in December, 82 people have died from COVID-19. The total number of deaths since March is now 311 and has doubled since the beginning of November.

A pedestrian walks on Congress Street in late November. Ben McCanna / staff photographer

Hospital stays had not been updated on Wednesday morning, but as of Tuesday, 185 people were in the hospital with COVID-19, of which 45 were in critical care and 19 on a ventilator. Since March, exactly 1000 people have been in hospital with the virus at some point.

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah is scheduled to inform the media at 2pm on Wednesday.

The 7-day average daily falls to 461 on Wednesday, up from 205 a month ago and 34 two months ago. In 11 of the last 17 days, cases have peaked at 400, including two days last week with 551 and 590 new cases. New cases were reported in all Maine counties, led by Cumberland County with 181, York County with 165 and Penobscot County with 90.

Two hospitals in Maineing have major outbreaks. York Hospital reported eight new positive cases among staff on Wednesday, bringing the number to 45 since the outbreak was discovered on December 6. The outbreak has also spread to 13 patients there, three of whom have died.

Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor had a total of 48 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday – 40 employees and eight patients.

Cases have increased since Thanksgiving, leading to fears that it may rise further after the Christmas weekend, even though state and federal health officials have appealed to Americans not to travel.

At the same time, vaccines are slowly entering Maine, giving a glimmer of hope when 2020 ends. Frontline healthcare professionals and residents and long-term care professionals have started taking either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and additional doses are coming every week.

But there has also been some confusion about the order in which certain groups of people should be inculcated as the state vaccination plan continues to evolve. An interim draft plan published on the Maine CDC’s website in October is now partially obsolete as state health officials have since adopted multi-phase vaccination plans proposed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For example, the Maine CDC added residents to long-term care facilities to the first phase of its vaccination plan in response to federal guidance. In the latest adjustment, Shah stated on Monday that Maine will follow a federal advisory committee’s recommendation to include individuals 75 years of age or older as well as “important” frontline workers in the next phase of vaccinations.

This means that tens of thousands of teachers, police, detectives, grocery workers and postal workers may be eligible for vaccination as early as the end of January or beginning of February, if the vaccine supply and federal distributions follow.

This story will be updated

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