The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday reported 202 cases of the novel coronavirus and one additional death, ending a week during which a federal relief bill and widened vaccine eligibility promised further help against COVID-19.

A $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives early Saturday, with Rep. Jared Golden of Maine one of just two Democrats to vote “nay.” And Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday that residents between 60 and 69 will be eligible for shots starting Wednesday.

Maine’s cumulative COVID-19 cases rose to 44,492 on Saturday. Of those, 35,058 have been confirmed by testing and 9,434 are considered probable cases of COVID-19. The seven-day average of new daily cases was 162.9, an uptick from 131 cases a week earlier.

Seven hundred two people have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Maine. The person reported Saturday to have died was a man over the age of 80 from Oxford County, the Maine CDC said.

President Biden’s nearly $2 trillion relief package passed the lower chamber of Congress on a nearly party-line vote of 219-212 on Saturday morning. It maintains most of the economic boosters and pandemic-fighting components as originally proposed, but omits a measure that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025.

 

The bill would provide $1,400 checks to individuals, extend emergency unemployment aid through August and increase tax credits for children and federal subsidies for health insurance. Additional billions would go to schools and colleges, state and local governments, vaccines and testing, rent relief and industries such as food production, airlines, restaurants, bars and performance venues.

Golden, who represents Maine’s 2nd District, and Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon were the only Democrats to vote against the bill. In a statement, Golden said only about 20 percent of the bill went directly to issues he deemed most urgent: vaccine distribution, testing and emergency federal unemployment programs. The bill buries those things, he said, under “a mountain of unnecessary or untimely spending.”

Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate are considering how they may reintroduce a minimum wage increase to the bill.

Back in Maine, Mills on Friday announced a new vaccine plan that prioritizes distribution based on age rather than medical background or front-line employment. Under the system, which takes effect Wednesday, residents in their 60s – an additional 200,000 Mainers – will be able to sign up for appointments.

Health officials predicted last week that they could offer shots to people in their 50s by April, people in their 40s by May, and people in their 30s by June. People under 30 would start getting vaccinated in July.

The decision to focus on age will leave out many people in high-risk jobs such as education, food service and groceries, as well as those with underlying medical conditions. But research shows that age is among the strongest predictors of death or serious illness from COVID-19, and Maine has one of the oldest populations among U.S. states.

“Given that Maine does have the oldest population … this approach, which is different from the approach in other states, will benefit the most people in Maine the soonest,” Mills said during a virtual news conference Friday. “I am trying to save lives here, trying to get shots in arms as quickly as possible. After consulting the science and weighing the many considerations, I do believe on balance this approach is the right one for our state.”

By Saturday, Maine had given 222,405 first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and 116,258 second doses. Of Maine’s 1.34 million population, 16.5 percent have received a first dose.

County by county as of Saturday, there had been 4,795 coronavirus cases in Androscoggin, 1,270 in Aroostook, 12,484 in Cumberland, 899 in Franklin, 902 in Hancock, 3,622 in Kennebec, 638 in Knox, 579 in Lincoln, 2,201 in Oxford, 3,899 in Penobscot, 276 in Piscataquis, 884 in Sagadahoc, 1,239 in Somerset, 582 in Waldo, 721 in Washington, and 9,501 in York.

By age, 15.3 percent of patients were under 20, while 18.1 percent were in their 20s, 14.4 percent were in their 30s, 13.1 percent were in their 40s, 15.3 percent were in their 50s, 11.7 percent were in their 60s, 6.6 percent were in their 70s, and 5.5 percent were 80 or older.

Of the 74 patients with COVID-19 in Maine hospitals on Saturday, 24 were in intensive care and eight were on ventilators. The state had 95 intensive care unit beds available of a total 390, and 247 ventilators available of 319. There were also 446 alternative ventilators.

Around the world late Saturday afternoon, there were 113.6 million known cases of COVID-19 and over 2.5 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States had 28.5 million cases and 511,764 deaths.

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