The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 458 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 10 additional deaths as the coronavirus extended its grip on the state.

The new cases come as Maine has begun to distribute and administer two versions of a COVID-19 vaccine. As of Tuesday afternoon, just over 5,800 individuals had received the first in a two-shot regimen of vaccines produced by either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

“It’s a fantastic day,” said Peter Wright, president of Bridgton Hospital and Rumford Hospital, where up to 100 employees were slated to receive Moderna vaccines on Tuesday. Another 67 residents or staff members also were vaccinated Tuesday at Rumford Community Home, a skilled nursing facility also run by Central Maine Healthcare.

“It’s a huge relief,” Wright said. “It’s a first step in the solution to getting back to normal life.”

The vaccination push is currently focused on front-line health care workers as well as residents and staff of some nursing homes, but the scope is expected to expand to additional populations – likely including Mainers age 75 and older during the next phase – as vaccine supplies increase nationwide.

A woman walks past a series of posters asking for financial support at the music venue One Longfellow Square. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Maine saw a record-high 590 new cases last Thursday. Since then, the number of new cases reported daily has ranged from a low of 230 on Sunday to Tuesday’s figure of 458. The rolling, seven-day average of new cases stood at 461 on Tuesday, which is more than double the seven-day average from four weeks ago.

The 10 additional deaths reported Tuesday give Maine 303 total deaths, the vast majority of which have been among individuals age 70 or older.

The deaths included two women in their 90s from Cumberland County, a woman in her 80s from Cumberland County, a man in his 50s from Cumberland County, a man in his 80s from Hancock County, a man in his 60s from Kennebec County, a woman in her 90s from Penobscot County, a woman in her 60s from Sagadahoc County, a woman in her 80s from Somerset County and a woman in her 80s from York County.

To date, the Maine CDC has tracked 19,743 total cases of the virus since the first infection was reported in the state in mid-March. Roughly half of those cases have occurred during the past month alone, illustrating the rapid spread of the virus at a time when more Mainers resume indoor activities and gather with others during the holidays.

With the state still very much in the grip of the virus, Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday extended the state of civil emergency through Jan. 20. The declaration authorizes the state to apply more resources to fighting the pandemic.

 

Hospitalization rates also have been rising in Maine, although the numbers have leveled off somewhat in recent days. The Maine CDC reported 185 individuals were hospitalized Tuesday, with 43 of them being treated in intensive care units and 19 connected to ventilators. That is down from a record  198 hospitalizations on Dec. 14.

Despite the recent surge, Maine continues to have among the lowest per capita infection and death rates in the country. Only Vermont had a lower number of cases per 100,000 residents as of Tuesday morning, and Maine had the third-lowest death rate behind Vermont and Hawaii, according to tracking by The New York Times.

Congress also passed a $900 billion pandemic relief bill late Monday night that will provide $600 stimulus payments to most Americans, an additional $300 in weekly benefits to the unemployed and as well as an additional $284 billion for forgivable loans to businesses.

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