State health officials reported another high daily COVID-19 case count Thursday, along with one additional death, but hospitalizations continue to fall steadily from their pandemic peak late last month.
With 680 new cases reported, the seven-day daily case average now stands at 556, which is up from 466 cases two weeks ago and from 316 cases this time last month, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the new cases Thursday, half were among individuals under the age of 40.
Since the pandemic reached Maine in March 2020, there have been 93,881 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, 2,569 people have been hospitalized at some point and 1,066 people have died. In the past three days, the CDC reported a total of 39 deaths, although 30 of those were found through a periodic review of death certificates and occurred between Sept. 11-29.
Nationally, more than 700,000 Americans have now died from the virus, according to the U.S. CDC.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine continues to drop precipitously. As of Thursday, there were 152 individuals in the hospital, including 46 in critical care and 23 on ventilators. Over the last two weeks, hospitalizations have decreased by 45 percent and the number of critical care patients has dropped by 80 percent.
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been declining across the country in recent weeks, especially in areas where the delta variant took hold earlier. But some states, including Maine, are still seeing cases rise.
In recent weeks, Maine’s daily case reports have been affected by a backlog of positive tests after a surge of cases overwhelmed the agency’s ability to screen the cases each day to eliminate duplicates and follow-ups. But Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah said Wednesday that fewer than 100 outstanding cases were pending. The backlog had been as big as 2,500 tests.
According to the U.S. CDC, Maine’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people is 267, which ranks 17th highest among states over that time and is higher than the national rate of 204 cases per 100,000 people. Another New England state, Connecticut, has the 2nd-lowest rate of transmission over the last seven days, with just 80 cases per 100,000 people.
Maine and Connecticut have virtually identical rates of vaccination, but Connecticut’s rate is more uniform across the state. In Maine, there remain wide disparities between southern, coastal counties and more rural, inland counties. Shah said Wednesday that large pockets of unvaccinated people in some of these counties is where the virus is spreading most and also where people are getting sick enough to be hospitalized.
For example, among Mainers between the ages of 12-39, the statewide vaccination rate is 62 percent. But Cumberland County’s rate is 77 percent and no other county is above 65 percent. On the other end, five counties have a vaccination rate below 50 percent among that age group.
Overall, Maine has now administered 882,120 second doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That represents 65.6 percent of all residents and 74.5 precent of those 12 and older who are eligible.
Pfizer officially requested Thursday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorize its vaccine for children between the ages of 5-11. If approved, the U.S. CDC will then decide whether to recommend the shots for youngsters. Per Pfizer’s application, younger children will get one-third of the dose that has been given to adults.
In addition, the state has given 38,443 third doses of Pfizer vaccine so far to older Mainers and those who are immunocompromised. The U.S. CDC has recommended additional doses for those groups.
This story will be updated.