Maine health officials reported 147 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and two additional deaths, as the state’s busiest vaccination week continues.

The 7-day daily case average stands at 170, a slight increase from 142 cases two weeks, or one incubation period, ago. That, coupled with an increased positivity rate this week, suggests cases might be leveling off rather than continuing to decline. This time last month, daily cases averaged nearly 300 and new cases peaked above 600 per day in mid-January.

Since the pandemic reached Maine, there have been 45,091 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 and 705 individuals have died, according to data tracked by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine dropped to 67 on Wednesday, including 24 in critical care and eight on a ventilator. Hospitalizations had been falling dramatically since peaking at 207 people on Jan. 13, but over the last 11 days, the number has leveled off and has ranged from a low of 62 to a high of 75.

As cases appear to be leveling off, vaccinations have increased dramatically. Maine has received more than 55,000 doses of vaccine this week, including 15,000 doses of the single-shot option from Johnson & Johnson that was approved by the FDA over the weekend.

President Biden announced Tuesday that vaccine production has ramped up to the point where there will be enough supply for every adult American to receive a shot by the end of May, or two months ahead of schedule.

The president also directed states, including Maine, that were not already prioritizing teachers and child care workers for vaccinations to begin doing so. Last week, Maine shifted to a strictly age-based strategy for vaccinations, which has drawn criticism from teachers and also from residents with high-risk health conditions.

Darmita Wilson performs a temperature check on Lindsay Goriss as staff and volunteers arrive before the first day of the Northern Light Mercy Hospital mass vaccination clinic at the Portland Expo on Tuesday, March 2. Maloney said they were prepping around 500 doses for the day. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Lindsay Crete, a spokeswoman for Gov. Janet Mills, said late Tuesday that the governor shares the goal of vaccinating school staff and child care workers, as well as those most at risk of serious illness and death, as soon as possible, but that the state’s supply of COVID-19 vaccine needs to increase in order for that to happen.

“Today’s news about more doses coming faster could help us achieve this goal, and the governor looks forward to receiving more information from the White House about this expected increase in vaccine supply,” Crete said.

As of Wednesday morning, the state had administered 364,431 total doses of vaccine. Of those, 236,784 people have received their first shots, of about 17.6 percent of Maine’s population, and 127,647 people, or 9.5 percent, have been fully vaccinated. Among Mainers 70 and older, 69 percent have now had one shot and 24 percent have gotten both. This week, the state opened eligibility for residents between the ages of 60 and 69 as part of a new age-based vaccination program that was announced last week.

Maine has added a number of new options for vaccinations this week, including two high-volume sites — one at the Portland Expo, the other at the former Marshalls store in Sanford. Central Maine Healthcare will launch on March 17 the first mass clinic in hard-hit Androscoggin County at the Auburn Mall.

And the grocery store chain Hannaford also announced Tuesday that it will begin offering vaccinations this week at 35 of its 63 stores across the state. Already, more than 70 Walmart, Sam’s Club and Walgreens locations have been administering vaccines.

As vaccination production and options accelerate, some states have begun loosening pandemic restrictions, even as health officilas warn it might be too early and could lead to another spike. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday said state businesses will reopen “100 percent” and the statewide mask mandate for public places will be rescinded. And nearby Massachusetts this week eased restrictions on restaurants and other businesses and is prepared to begin allowing a small percentage of patrons inside sporting venues.

Although cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have all been dropping, the decreases have slowed. Last week, new cases dropped by just 3 percent in the United States after three consecutive weekly decreases of more than 20 percent, according to federal CDC data.

This story will be updated.

 

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