The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday reported 131 cases of the novel coronavirus, and no additional deaths, a continued decline in case numbers as vaccination programs ramp up.
Despite weather-related delays in vaccine shipments across the country, Maine health officials say prior planning has avoided major disruption to vaccine schedules. The state is slated to receive up to 14 percent more doses this week, and had already given a first dose to nearly 15 percent of its population as of Sunday morning.
Maine’s cumulative COVID-19 cases rose to 43,497 on Sunday. Of those, 34,502 have been confirmed by testing and 8,995 are considered probable cases of COVID-19. Hospitalizations, meanwhile, dipped to 71 on Sunday.
Six hundred fifty-eight people have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Maine. The seven-day average of new daily cases was 139.9 on Sunday, slightly higher than Saturday’s 138.4 but only a fraction of its peak in January.
As of Sunday morning, 199,360 Mainers had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 94,767 had received their second. Out of Maine’s population of 1.3 million, 14.83 percent have received their first dose, according to Maine CDC statistics.
Last week, Northern Light Health announced that a mass vaccination site at the Portland Expo – also currently slated for the 70-and-older age group – is slated to open on March 2 and will operate on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Despite the increasing availability of vaccines, Maine’s eligibility rules are causing confusion and frustration among some older residents wondering when it’ll be their turn to get a shot. Some states, such as Massachusetts, have adopted a “buddy” system where a spouse who’s under the age of eligibility can get a shot alongside their eligible partner.
Maine isn’t considering adopting such a rule, health officials say, even though Gov. Janet Mills appeared to contradict that guidance at a briefing last month.
“If somebody who’s 71 appears at a clinic to be vaccinated and they bring their spouse who’s 69 and 10 months old, they probably won’t turn that spouse away, because it’s efficient and medically appropriate for them both to get vaccinated,” Mills said at the time.
Right now, Maine is focused on vaccinating people 70 and older, health care workers who interact with patients, long-term care residents and public safety personnel. Not only did public health officials confirm last week that they weren’t considering a buddy system, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said he would consider sanctions against providers who distribute vaccines to people who aren’t eligible.
In some cases, that can hamper efforts to distribute leftover vaccines before they go bad. And with fraudsters in some other states faking their identities to jump the vaccine line, Maine hospitals say it’s difficult to confirm with certainty that recipients are eligible.
Meanwhile, two employees at Westbrook City Hall have tested positive for COVID-19, the city announced Saturday afternoon. City Hall will be closed until March 1 as the building undergoes a deep cleaning and all staff there are tested, officials said.
County by county as of Sunday, there had been 4,695 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 1,257 in Aroostook, 12,228 in Cumberland, 880 in Franklin, 874 in Hancock, 3,548 in Kennebec, 622 in Knox, 566 in Lincoln, 2,157 in Oxford, 3,784 in Penobscot, 244 in Piscataquis, 865 in Sagadahoc, 1,230 in Somerset, 574 in Waldo, 704 in Washington and 9,266 in York.
By age, 15.2 percent of patients were under 20, while 18.1 percent were in their 20s, 14.4 percent were in their 30s, 13.1 percent were in their 40s, 15.3 percent were in their 50s, 11.7 percent were in their 60s, 6.6 percent were in their 70s, and 5.6 percent were 80 or older.
Of the 71 patients with COVID-19 in Maine hospitals on Sunday, 24 were in intensive care and seven were on ventilators. The state had 114 intensive care unit beds available of a total 386, and 251 ventilators available of 319. There were also 446 alternative ventilators.
Around the world on Sunday morning, there were 111 million known cases of COVID-19 and over 2.46 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 28 million cases and nearly 498,000 deaths.