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Originally published in Castine Patriot, November 11, 2021 and Island Ad-Vantages, November 11, 2021 and The Weekly Packet, November 11, 2021
Pandemic persists in Maine, recedes elsewhere
Hospitalizations remain high, vaccination is key

by Leslie Landrigan

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in Maine as it has since the beginning of September, with the number of new cases exceeding the worst days of the surge that began in 2020.

On November 8, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 942 new cases of the virus.

That’s fewer than the record of 999 on September 27, but higher than at any time last winter. The most number of new cases reported then was 897 on January 14, 2021.

“Although we’ve pulled off of our highs from mid-September, we are still at a high plateau,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, in a virtual news conference on November 3.

Since the beginning of September, the CDC has reported at least 500 new cases of COVID-19 every day.

Locally, COVID cases have become a familiar problem. Maine CDC reports Deer Isle and Blue Hill have each had more than 100 cases of COVID-19. Between 50 and 99 cases were reported in each town of Sedgwick, Stonington, Surry, Castine and Penobscot. Only Brooklin and Brooksville have had fewer than 50 cases, according to Maine CDC.

Hospitalizations

Hospitalizations remain high. On November 9, Maine CDC reported 215 people hospitalized with the virus.

Public health officials worry a wave of COVID-19 cases will overwhelm hospital systems. For example, 72 COVID-19 patients were in critical care on November 9, leaving only 50 available critical care beds in the entire state.

Vaccinations

“Getting vaccinated is still the key,” said Shah. “That is ultimately how we are going to find our way out of the pandemic.”

Maine has the fourth-highest rate of vaccination in the United States, with close to 74 percent of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Maine CDC. But there are pockets—such as Kingman, Topsfield and Cutler—where fewer than 60 percent of the residents have gotten their shots.

The virus is hitting Maine’s rural counties hardest, with transmission rates in Androscoggin, Oxford and Somerset well above the state average.

Mainers between the ages of 5 and 12 have begun to get shots of the newly approved Pfizer vaccine for younger children.

Union 76 and 93 schools were all open as of November 9. Only two new positive cases were reported during the first week in November, both in Deer Isle-Stonington High School, according to Interim Superintendent Bob England.