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Maine COVID-19 Hospitalizations Decline, But Stay Close to Record Levels

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Hospital admissions fell Friday but still remain at a near-record high as patients sick with COVID-19 fill hospitals across Maine.

The number of admitted COVID-19 patients fell from 436 on Thursday – a historic record for a pandemic – to 424 on Friday. The number of patients in intensive care rose from 103 on Thursday to 109 on Friday, while the number of patients requiring mechanical ventilation rose from 53 on Thursday to 57 on Friday.

While the use of intensive care has increased since Thursday, the number of patients in ICU has remained relatively stable in recent weeks.

Maine’s experience is similar to reports from other places where a microwave wave has been observed, where hospitalizations are skyrocketing, but ICU admissions are stable or declining. Omicron, early research shows, appears to cause a less severe form of the disease compared to delta and earlier variants.

Maine crossed the 300 patient threshold less than two months ago and peaked at just over 200 patients during the winter wave a year ago.

Also on Friday, Maine reported 1,411 cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional deaths.

While the omicron variant is clearly causing a spate of infections in Maine and across the country, public health experts are placing increasing emphasis on case count as a way to monitor the pandemic and assess its risks. Those numbers are less useful because of a delay in reporting test results, the increase in home use tests that go unreported to the state and the fact that many people who get mild symptoms don’t get tested at all. Since the start of the pandemic, Maine has recorded 159,498 cases and 1,644 deaths.

Meanwhile, the ommicron variant a wave of cases in schools, with some districts being completely remote or some schools in their district being remote.

The MSAD 51 school district — which includes the towns of Cumberland and North Yarmouth — will begin distance learning on Friday, with a view to returning Tuesday, the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

“This has been a challenging week for MSAD 51 schools,” Chief Superintendent Jeff Porter said in an email to parents. “We’ve been dealing with severe staff shortages for most of the week, with about 15 percent of our staff absent every day due to illness. We have also had large numbers of students absent from school this week – between 160 and 215 students daily, with the highest absenteeism (on Thursday).”

Some schools in Biddeford, Saco, Kennebunk, Brunswick, Gorham, South Portland, Scarborough, Windham and Portland have also had remote days recently.

At RSU 5 – which serves students in Freeport, Durham and Pownal – the district is reporting 367 cases of COVID-19, although the schools are still in person for now. The district is asking people to become substitute teachers and volunteers to keep personal learning going.

“This has been another tough week for COVID in RSU 5,” Chief Inspector Becky Foley said in a letter to parents on Friday. “I am hopeful that we are approaching the culmination of this latest wave and that we will see the number of cases decrease over the next week.”

This story is being updated.


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