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Originally published in Castine Patriot, December 23, 2020 and Island Ad-Vantages, December 23, 2020 and The Weekly Packet, December 23, 2020
Maine CDC: ‘Stay home at Christmas’
Pandemic surge continues, hospitalizations remain high

COVID-19 Local Updates Fall/Winter 2020
Click here to see the full COVID-19 Local Updates Fall/Winter 2020.

by Leslie Landrigan

Mainers should only celebrate Christmas with the people they live with to avoid spreading COVID-19 and straining the health care system, advises the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

After Thanksgiving, when some people held indoor gatherings, hospitalizations rose in the state. They could rise again, depending on people’s behavior at Christmas, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, in a virtual news conference on December 18.

“As we go into more winter holidays next week, there’s that possibility for more transmission [of COVID-19] leading to more hospitalizations in the 10 or 12 days after,” Shah said.

In places where COVID-19 cases spiked, from Rhode Island to California, hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients, according to news reports. Some hospitals set up tents to care for patients, some have canceled surgeries and some have brought in mobile refrigerated morgues to handle people who’ve died from the virus.

On December 20, Maine CDC reported 162 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those, 49 were in critical care beds. There were only 96 critical care beds left available in the entire state.

Hence the Maine CDC warning on its website: “Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”

Outbreaks

As Maine’s largest hospitals began vaccinating health care workers, an outbreak at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor showed the tenacity of the COVID-19 virus.

“The fact that we have seen outbreaks in hospitals is evidence of just how aggressive the COVID-19 virus can be,” Shah said.

EMMC announced on December 18 that more than 30 staff and patients tested positive.

“This virus moves fast, it is silent to start, and, as the community spread continues to rise, we cannot count on a negative test alone as an assurance of safety,” said Rand O’Leary, president of EMMC in a statement.

Locally, the virus raced through the Island Nursing Home just before Thanksgiving, infecting nearly 100 residents and staff and causing the deaths of 12 residents. The nursing home is now in the recovery stage, according to Executive Director Matthew Trombley.