A woman raises shades in the grandstand building Wednesday as MaineHealth prepares for the first day of a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the former Scarborough Downs. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Maine reported 273 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths Wednesday, continuing a downward trend in new infections.

The seven-day average of new cases has dropped to 296.9, compared with 527 two weeks ago and 529.7 on Jan. 2.

The reduction in new cases comes as Maine continues to expand vaccinations, including the opening Wednesday of a new site operated by MaineHealth at Scarborough Downs. The former harness racing track has undergone renovations to become a mass vaccination site when larger supplies of vaccine are available.

Eventually, the site will be able to handle about 1,500 to 2,000 vaccinations per day, depending on supply.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday that supply is currently the biggest roadblock in the state’s ability to immunize enough residents to reach herd immunity. Herd immunity would be achieved when about 80 percent of the state’s 1.3 million people are fully vaccinated, enough to prevent the virus from circulating in the population. The Biden administration has increased shipments to states, but Maine is still only receiving about 21,000 doses a week.

“The rate at which we achieve herd immunity is entirely driven by the supply of vaccine,” Shah said.


Statewide, Maine has given 161,655 COVID-19 vaccine doses, including 120,027 first doses and 41,628 second doses. Nearly 9 percent of Maine’s population has received at least the first dose of the vaccine, according to the Maine CDC.

The Biden administration announced that states would receive at least 5 percent more doses in the next three weeks, on top of a 16 percent increase that began this week. The state is currently getting slightly more than 20,000 doses a week, far short of the 50,000 needed for a fully implemented vaccination program.

Shah said at the Wednesday hearing that vaccine shipments to states should be ramping up, but it’s difficult to know when that will happen.

“My hope is that if we can get to administering 90,000 to 100,000 shots a week we can make significant inroads,” Shah said.

Also opening this week is Northern Light Health’s mass immunization clinic at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Dr. James Jarvis, COVID-19 incident commander for Northern Light Health, the parent company of Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, said 770 people were immunized during the first day the Cross Insurance Center clinic opened Tuesday, with 130 people re-scheduling to Thursday because of the weather. The clinic is expected to be open Tuesdays and Thursdays and will soon have the capability to vaccinate up to 5,000 people per day if there’s enough vaccine supply, Jarvis said.

Robert Long, Maine CDC spokesman, said a location in Sanford is under consideration for Maine’s third mass vaccination clinic, but it hasn’t been finalized.

The first phase of vaccinations, which is close to wrapping up, was focused on health care professionals, public safety workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Maine is currently vaccinating those 70 and older, and will move later to immunize 65- to 69-year-olds, those with high-risk health conditions and essential workers.

The race is on to vaccinate as many people as possible before new variants take hold, with scientists especially worried about the U.K. strain, which is about 50 percent more contagious than regular COVID-19. None of the new variants have yet been detected in Maine, but it is just a matter of time before they are, scientists say.

Overall, 40,233 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Maine, and 627 have died. There are currently 158 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 49 in intensive care.

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