Gloria Bailey, 81, of Lewiston receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from nurse Katie Graffam on Thursday at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. “I was a little nervous this morning thinking about it, but now I am all good,” Bailey said. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Maine public health officials reported 265 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, continuing a downward trend over the last two weeks as vaccinations move forward at a slow but slightly accelerated pace.

Two additional deaths were reported as well. There have now been 40,799 confirmed or probable cases since the pandemic reached Maine in March and 632 have died from COVID-19. Deaths have more than tripled since Thanksgiving.

The seven-day daily case average stood at 285 on Friday, which is down from 363 cases one week ago and 501 cases two weeks, or one incubation period, ago. New cases were reported Friday in all 16 counties, led by Cumberland County with 63 and York County with 60. The highest rates of transmission over the last two weeks have been in Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin counties, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The lowest rates have been in Knox and Hancock counties.

“The improving metrics are a good sign,” Gov. Janet Mills said Thursday. “They are an indication that Maine has rounded the corner, we hope, on the post-holiday surge of COVID-19 that we saw, a surge that seemed to follow on the heels of holiday gatherings and the onset of cold weather. The news is good but of course this pandemic is far from over.”

Both Mills and CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah cautioned Mainers against hosting or attending Super Bowl parties Sunday.

Hospitalizations have been steadily decreasing over the last few weeks as well. As of Friday, there were 131 individuals in the hospital with COVID-19, the lowest number since Nov. 28. Of those, 45 were in critical care and 22 were on a ventilator. Although hospitalizations are down statewide, which mirrors national trends, facilities in Lewiston, Bridgton and Rumford all are seeing their busiest weeks of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, vaccinations continue at an increasing pace. This week, the state’s first two mass vaccination sites opened – one at Scarborough Downs, the other at Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. As of Thursday, 130,551 Mainers, or nearly 10 percent of the population, had gotten their first dose, and 46,410 people, or about 3.5 percent, had received both doses.

The state’s rate of vaccination, according to a state-by-state tracker from Bloomberg News, is about 12 doses per 100 people, which ranks 10th and is above the national average of 10.7 doses per 100 people. Of those who have gotten one dose, slightly less than half have been over the age of 60, according to Maine CDC data, while 28 percent of individuals who have received both doses have been 60 or older.

Maine moved into Phase 1B of its vaccination plans about three weeks ago and has been prioritizing those 70 and above. However, state officials said Thursday that if vaccine supplies continue to come in at their current rate, they will open up vaccinations to those age 65-69 by early March.

“It is too early to say that we’re turning a corner, but we are close to saying one in 10 Maine residents have had their first doses and over 20 percent of Maine people 70 and older have had their first doses,” Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said Thursday.

Also included in Phase 1B are some critical and front-line workers, but the state has yet to make any final decisions about which groups would be prioritized next.

Maine will receive 21,475 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine next week, an increase of 5 percent over the current week, which was 16 percent more than last week.

Of next week’s doses, 13,900 will be sent to hospitals, 3,975 will go to outpatient clinics, 2,500 are for independent pharmacies helping to vaccinate people in long-term care and 1,100 doses will be distributed to public safety departments. For the fourth consecutive week, Maine will not send any doses to CVS and Walgreens as part of the retail pharmacy program operated by the U.S. CDC.

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