The number of people in Maine hospitals with COVID-19 continues to decline, public health authorities reported Saturday as the state recorded 22 additional deaths from the infectious disease.
There were 173 people hospitalized statewide with the coronavirus on Saturday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, down from 181 on Friday. A total of 436 patients were hospitalized on Jan. 13, the pandemic high.
Of those hospitalized Saturday, 39 were in critical care units and 13 on ventilators.
Meanwhile Maine residents in all but three counties should continue to wear masks in public indoor spaces, as 13 counties continue to carry a high risk of COVID-19 transmission, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.
With fewer sick patients, most of the Maine Army National Guard members assigned to Maine hospitals and other health agencies ended their deployment Friday.
The Maine CDC director, Dr. Nirav Shah, tweeted that various epidemiological markers of COVID-19 “show a rapidly improving picture, but with some ways to go still. Hospitalization data are valuable because they provide a lens on two important aspects of the pandemic right now: medical severity and health system capacity.”
According to the U.S. CDC, three Maine counties – Kennebec, Somerset and Waldo – now carry just a medium risk of transmission, which means mask wearing is no longer recommended for most. But those who are immunocompromised or at high risk of severe disease should continue to wear masks in indoor public settings, and everyone should be up to date on vaccines and boosters.
The 13 counties that continue to carry a high risk of transmission are Androscoggin, Aroostook, Cumberland, Franklin, Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Washington and York.
The CDC recommendation for high-risk counties, in addition to everyone masking up in public indoor spaces, includes the wearing of well-fitting masks at K-12 schools. Those who are immunocompromised or at high risk for disease should also maintain improved ventilation indoors when possible, the CDC recommends. Everyone should be up to date on vaccines and boosters.
Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the chief health improvement officer for the MaineHealth hospital network, is cautioning people to be careful even in places where the CDC is dropping the indoor masking recommendations. People age 60 and older and those with underlying health conditions – which is much of Maine’s population – should continue to wear masks in public indoors, Mills said Friday.
“I’m going to continue to mask indoors,” Mills said. “I’m used to it, it doesn’t bother me and I don’t want to get it,” she added, referring to COVID-19. “I’m going to continue to wear one until the rates come down significantly.”
While conditions are improving in Maine, however, the death toll from COVID-19 continues to grow. Including the 22 people reported Saturday to have died with the virus, the pandemic has now claimed 2,064 lives in the state.
The Maine CDC said Saturday that Maine has had,226,120 cases since the start of the pandemic , or 867 more than reported on Friday. Those cases do not reflect current conditions because Maine officials have been working to clear the backlog of unprocessed positive tests during the omicron wave in January.