Hospitalizations for COVID-19 remained heavy statewide in Maine this week, but the burden has spread out more evenly across hospitals.

Wednesday was the worst day yet of the pandemic in terms of the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus – 207, with 64 in intensive care. Tuesday was the heaviest day yet for ICU use, with 68 people being treated. The overall inpatient count fell slightly Thursday to 193.

The distribution of patients across the state was more even this week, with many hospitals seeing heavy COVID-19 burdens but only one – Maine Medical Center in Portland – setting a new weekly record.

Maine Med, the state’s largest hospital, had an average of 38.4 confirmed COVID-19 inpatients for the week ending Thursday, breaking its record of 38 set last week. Eighteen COVID-19 patients were in intensive care Thursday at the 613-bed hospital, which has about 117 adult intensive care beds for all purposes.

But Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor – which has been the busiest COVID-19 hospital in the state for the previous three weeks – saw its inpatient numbers fall for the second straight week to stand at an average of 32.1 each day. Last week that figure was 47, and the week before it stood at a statewide single-facility high of 51.9 per day.

A senior clinician at the Bangor hospital said he does not consider the reduced burden an all-clear signal for the public. “Some of (the reduction) is due to recovery, but many remain hospitalized but are no longer categorized as having active disease. And sadly, a precious few have died while under our care,” Dr. James Jarvis, senior vice president at EMMC and physician incident commander for its parent entity, Northern Light Health, said via email.

“We remind everyone of the seriousness of this disease and in remembrance of the dead, ask for your continued vigilance, wear your face coverings in public, limit gathering outside of your own household, stay six feet apart, and wash your hands frequently. We are still seeing high rates of infection across the state and significant hospitalizations in the southern part of the state,” Jarvis said. “We are unsure of where the post-holiday rates will bring us, but we are preparing at all of our Northern Light hospitals to respond to whatever comes our way.”

Southern Maine Health Care Medical Center also saw the burden ease after having experienced its heaviest week yet last week. The 158-bed Biddeford hospital reported an average of 24 COVID-19 inpatients a day, down from 27 last week.

Much smaller York Hospital, with 48 beds, also saw the burden ease slightly after a record-breaking week at the start of the year. It reported an average of 9.3 confirmed COVID-19 inpatients a day, down from 10.7 last week.

Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston had an average of 11 COVID-19 inpatients a day for the week ending Thursday, slightly up from an average of 7.7 the previous week but below the 12.7 record set at the start of December. Lewiston’s other hospital, St. Mary’s, saw its burden ease from record levels, falling to 4.9 per day from 6.7 last week.

MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta also had an increase to an average of 11.3 COVID-19 inpatients each day from 8.7 the week before, below its record level of 17.4 set during the second week of December.

The situation was similar at Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland, which had an average of 10 COVID-19 inpatients a day for the week, up from 6.3 last week, but lower than its worst week set in early December, when the figure was 6.7 per day.

The burden at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick was unchanged at 4.6 COVID-19 inpatients per day. Its heaviest week was the week before Christmas, when it reached 9.3.

The pressure increased at A.R. Gould, a 48-bed hospital in Presque Isle, where COVID-19 inpatients numbered 3.3 per day. Last week the figure was 2.6 per day, and the week before the figure was a record-setting 3.6. The hospital didn’t admit its first COVID-19 patient until Oct. 28.

Another Aroostook County hospital, Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent, declined to share its inpatient numbers when the Press Herald asked for them last week, the only Maine hospital ever to do so. Federal data for the week ending Jan. 7 indicate the 42-bed hospital had a substantial increase to 30 confirmed COVID-19 inpatient nights for the week – or 4.3 per day – up from 11 the week before (or 1.7 per day). The data reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services starting last month lags the Press Herald’s survey by a week.

The federal data for the week ending Jan. 7 also showed Cary Medical Center in Caribou and Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan had COVID-19 inpatients that week. It showed Maine Med had 12 child COVID-19 inpatient nights that week and that EMMC had six.

Many other smaller hospitals had COVID-19 patients for the week ending Thursday, including Franklin Memorial in Farmington, Sebasticook Valley in Pittsfield, PenBay Medical Center in Rockport, Stephens Memorial in Norway, Maine Coast Hospital in Ellsworth, Mayo Regional in Dover-Foxcroft, and Bridgton and Rumford Hospitals.

Since the start of the pandemic, Maine Med has had the heaviest total COVID-19 hospitalization burden, with more than 4,030 inpatient nights of care. It was followed by EMMC (2,345), SMHC (over 1,770), and MaineGeneral (1,305) in that order.

The pandemic continues to rage across the country, with states reporting 230,476 positive tests and 3,922 deaths on Wednesday alone, according to The New York Times tracker, substantially more than either of the two deadliest battles of the Civil War, the Battles of Antietam and Gettysburg, or in the 9/11 terror attacks. Maine had been one of the best-performing states for much of the pandemic, but over the past three weeks it has moved ahead of Washington, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota and several other states, and now places 41st in terms of prevalence of the disease over the seven days ending Wednesday.

Rhode Island and Massachusetts are currently the fourth- and fifth-worst states in the country, with 95 and 92 new cases per capita over the week ending Wednesday. The comparable figure for Maine was 43, according to the Times tracker.

Hospitalizations are a lagging indicator in that they typically occur one to three weeks after a person is exposed to the disease, but unlike other metrics, it is not dependent on who and how many people were tested. They can end in three ways: recovery, death, or transfer to another facility.

The Press Herald compiles data directly from the hospitals and hospital networks. The data do not include outpatients or inpatients suspected of having the virus but who were never tested. They include most of the state’s hospitals, accounting for nearly all of the statewide hospitalizations reported each week by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.