The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday reported 417 new cases of COVID-19 and five additional deaths, an elevated case count amid a general decline as nearly 50 percent of Mainers have been vaccinated against the virus.
The seven-day average of new daily cases stood at 297.7 on Saturday, down from 381.9 a week ago but still higher than the running average of 260.7 new cases reported for the week ending April 3. Much of the recent surge in new cases has been driven by infections among younger people, prompting appeals from Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah and others for younger Mainers to get vaccinated.
Forty-nine percent of the 417 cases reported on Saturday occurred in individuals under age 30, and two individuals in their 20s have died in Maine in recent weeks after contracting COVID-19.
Hospitalizations also continue to creep back upward after peaking in early January and steadily falling through the early spring. There were 126 individuals hospitalized in Maine on Saturday, the highest number since early February, with 51 of those patients being treated in critical care units and 15 connected to ventilators.
But Maine continues to vaccinate people at a faster rate than most other states.
On Saturday, Maine had the highest percentage in the country (39.3 percent) of residents who have received the shots needed for full inoculation against COVID-19. That figure rises to 46.3 percent when zeroing in on the 16-and-older population currently eligible for vaccination.
Maine also ranked fifth nationally – behind New England neighbors New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut – in terms of the percent of the population that has received at least one shot, according to tracking by Bloomberg.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering walk-in shots at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds in Oxford County, after closing a clinic that ran for much of the past week in Biddeford. Despite Maine’s high vaccination rate, demand has been lagging, so vaccine clinics increasingly have been offering walk-in options.
Vaccinations against COVID-19 are free, regardless of whether the recipient has health insurance, and are available in Maine to any resident age 16 or older. For a complete list of the hundreds of vaccination sites in Maine and additional information on obtaining a shot, go to maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites or call the state’s Community Vaccination Line at 1-888-445-4111.
Maine’s cumulative COVID-19 cases rose to 61,616 on Saturday. Of those, 45,868 have been confirmed by testing and 15,748 are considered probable cases of COVID-19.
The five deaths linked to COVID-19 that were reported on Saturday occurred between April 17 and April 27 but were discovered during a routine review of vital records by Maine CDC staff. The four women and one man were residents of Kennebec, Penobscot and Sagadahoc counties. Two of the deceased were in their 70s and three were in their 80s.
To date, Maine CDC has reported a total of 789 deaths linked to COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Maine.
Meanwhile, Maine school superintendents are asking state officials to clarify what restrictions may be required to protect against COVID-19 this coming fall. As the school year winds down, there’s already tension over distance requirements in schools that have limited the in-classroom capacities of some districts.
In a letter to state education officials, the Maine School Superintendents Association suggested that the 6-foot distance restriction be lowered to 3 feet. School lunches are hard enough to schedule without the added onus of finding space for everyone to eat, the association said.
“Schools simply do not have the interior spacing nor the supervisory staff to provide 6 feet of spacing for the brief time period it takes students to eat snacks and lunch,” said the letter signed by Richard Colpitts, president of MSSA.
A spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said Friday that state health and education officials will be working with school leaders to plan for the fall. But they haven’t set a deadline for when that plan will become public.
State officials are also considering how best to bring districts back to in-person learning five days a week, said the spokeswoman, Jackie Farwell. Right now, many districts are using a “hybrid” structure with some days in person and others remote.
“The Mills administration recognizes the importance of in-person instruction for a child’s social, emotional, and educational growth, and shares the goal of getting those students who are not already in the classroom back for full-time learning as soon as possible,” Farwell said.
By Saturday morning, Maine had given 635,928 people the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 521,043 had received a final dose. Out of the state’s population of 1.3 million, 47.31 percent had received a first dose.
County by county as of Saturday, there had been 7,208 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 1,681 in Aroostook, 16,167 in Cumberland, 1,225 in Franklin, 1,229 in Hancock, 5,700 in Kennebec, 996 in Knox, 876 in Lincoln, 3,257 in Oxford, 5,408 in Penobscot, 448 in Piscataquis, 1,287 in Sagadahoc, 1,897 in Somerset, 847 in Waldo, 832 in Washington and 12,556 in York.
By age, 17.9 percent of patients were under 20, while 18.6 percent were in their 20s, 14.7 percent were in their 30s, 13.3 percent were in their 40s, 14.8 percent were in their 50s, 10.6 percent were in their 60s, 5.5 percent were in their 70s, and 4.5 percent were 80 or older.
Around the world late Saturday afternoon, there were more than 151.6 million known cases of COVID-19 and 3.1 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 32.3 million cases and 576,608 deaths.
Staff Writer Kevin Miller contributed to this report.