Hospitalizations for COVID-19 continued to fall across Maine this week, though the burden on the state’s hospitals remains higher than the worst day of the spring surge.

The total number of people hospitalized for the disease statewide fell to 89 Thursday, the lowest level since Nov. 20 and less than half the peak of 207 set on Jan. 13. Eighteen people were in intensive care.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 inpatients continued to fall at most of Maine’s major hospitals for the week ending Thursday, with the state’s largest, 613-bed Maine Medical Center in Portland, having fewer than at any time since Thanksgiving, the holiday that appears to have catalyzed the winter surge that raged across the United States in December and the first half of January.

Maine Med cared for an average of 18 COVID-19 inpatients each day for the week ending Thursday, down from 24.9 last week and far below the peak of 40.9 the third week of January. At Mercy Hospital just down the hill, the figure ticked up to 3.9 from 1.9 last week but remained a tiny fraction of the 121-bed hospital’s record level of 14.9 in mid-December.

Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center – which was the busiest pandemic hospital in the state for much of December – saw its burden fall steeply to 9.1 COVID-19 inpatients a day, down from 16.1 last week; it now stands at the lowest level since early November. The 322-bed Bangor hospital had treated a peak of 51.9 COVID-19 inpatients per day at the end of December, which remains the most demanding week experienced by any Maine hospital during the pandemic.

MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta reported an average of just 5.6 COVID-19 inpatients a day for the week, less than half the 12.3 reported a week ago and the lowest level since October. The 198-bed hospital had cared for an average of more than 17 COVID-19 inpatients each day for the three weeks following Thanksgiving.

Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston had its lightest week since early November, with a daily average of six COVID-19 inpatients for the six days ending Wednesday, down from 9.1 last week and the peak of 16 in mid-January. St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center across town saw a similar pattern, reporting an average of 2.2 COVID-19 inpatients a day, down sharply from last week’s 6.7 and its peak of 10.6 the week before.

At Brunswick’s Mid Coast Hospital the metric was essentially flat, going from 3.6 last week to 3.9 this week.

York County’s hospitals saw a slight increase. The largest, 158-bed Southern Maine Health Care Medical Center in Biddeford, reported an average of nine COVID-19 inpatients a day for the week compared to 5.1 last week, but that is well below its peak of 27 the first week in January. York Hospital, a 48-bed community hospital that was hit hard by the disease in late December and early January, cared for an average of 2.4 COVID-19 inpatients each day this week, up from 0.9 last week, but still a small fraction of its record level of 10.7.

Following a noticeable pattern in recent weeks, several smaller hospitals that formerly had few if any COVID-19 patients remained at high levels, the result of strategic decisions by the big three hospital networks to enable them to care for local, less acutely affected patients.

The only hospital to experience a new peak of burden this week was Rumford Hospital, which cared for an average of 5.2 COVID-19 inpatients each day for the six days ending Wednesday, up from 2.6 last week and its previous record level of 2.9 two weeks before that. Last week its Central Maine Healthcare sister hospital, 25-bed Bridgton Hospital, was the only facility in the state to post a record, but this week its average daily COVID-19 inpatient count fell from 5.6 to 3.6.

LincolnHealth Miles Hospital in Damariscotta, part of the MaineHealth network, also had its busiest week of the pandemic with an average of 1.1 COVID-19 inpatients a day. The 31-bed community hospital didn’t see its first coronavirus inpatient until Jan. 17.

Several other small hospitals reported having COVID-19 inpatients this week, including Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield, Inland in Waterville, Franklin Memorial in Farmington, PenBay Medical Center in Rockport, Maine Coast in Ellsworth, A.R. Gould in Presque Isle, and Mayo in Dover-Foxcroft.

The pandemic continued to ease in the United States, with states reporting 70,176 positive tests and 2,471 deaths on Wednesday, according to The New York Times tracker. After spending several weeks in the middle of the pack, Maine is again one of the best-performing states in the country in terms of per capita disease prevalence, with lower numbers than anyplace save Hawaii and Oregon.

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 Maine hospitals. The data does not include outpatients or inpatients suspected of having the virus but who were never tested. It includes 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.

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