The number of COVID-19 inpatients at most of Maine’s hospitals remained flat for a fourth week, though there were upticks at the major hospitals serving Portland and Bangor, data collected from the hospitals by the Press Herald show.

The data, current as of Thursday, show low numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients across the state over the past week, further evidence that strict social distancing measures have slowed the pandemic and protected medical facilities from being overwhelmed.

Statewide, 39 people were hospitalized Thursday, though that number jumped to 44 Friday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 35 a week earlier. Gov. Janet Mills has said the hospitalization trend is one of several metrics her administration is watching as it makes decisions about the state’s phased reopening.

Maine Medical Center, which has had roughly half of the state’s confirmed coronavirus inpatients through most of the crisis, had just 10 patients on May 2, its lowest burden since March 24, but that number rose to 17 by Thursday. Portland’s other major hospital, Mercy, had no patients for two weeks in mid-April, but its patient count has crept up from one to three since April 29.

Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor has had between six and seven COVID-19 patients since May 3, up from three most of last week.

Maine saw its largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases Thursday, the Maine CDC reported, largely because of outbreaks at the Tyson Foods plant in Portland, the Springbrook Center nursing home in Westbrook, and a homeless shelter in Bangor. The uptick in hospitalizations is likely related to these outbreaks, though hospitals do not disclose such information in order to protect patient privacy.


The data is also unlikely to reflect the effects of reopening barber shops, hair salons and other business May 1 – or of the large gathering of mask-less customers at a defiant Bethel brewpub May 1 – because there is a generally at least a week-long lag between exposures to the virus and hospitalizations. The median incubation period before experiencing symptoms is 5.1 days, according to a May 5 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston has had between one and three COVID-19 inpatients since May 3 after going seven days without one. Franklin Memorial in Farmington had an inpatient count of one for much of the week, its only pandemic hospitalizations apart from April 3, when it had three.

Hospitals in most other parts of the state continued to see flat or gently declining caseloads for the fourth week running. Southern Maine Health Center in Biddeford and MaineGeneral in Augusta, the hospitals that have had the greatest burden from the pandemic after Maine Med, each had just one COVID-19 inpatient Thursday, the lowest level for both since March 26.

Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick has had one or two patients for the past two weeks, down from a peak of five on April 13. York Hospital did not provide its weekly numbers, making its trend impossible to gauge, but said it had no patients Friday. Waldo Memorial in Belfast had a patient count of one all week, while Bridgton had none.

In all cases, hospitalizations can end three ways: recovery, death or transfer to another facility. The data does not include outpatients or inpatients who were suspected of having the virus but never tested.

Governments worldwide have introduced social distancing measures to “flatten the curve” in an effort to slow the pandemic’s spread so that hospital intensive care units are not overwhelmed by a massive wave of patients. On May 1, Maine began lifting some of the restrictions imposed March 31.

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