State health officials reported 136 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, but no additional deaths, as vaccination efforts for older Mainers continue and as appointments open up to teachers and child care staff.

There have now been 45,227 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, and 705 deaths, since the pandemic reached Maine almost one year ago, according to data tracked by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The seven-day daily case average has increased slightly to 160 — from 137 cases two weeks, or one incubation period ago, and 270 from cases this time last month. Daily cases peaked at an average of more than 600 in mid-January, likely attributable to an increase in gatherings over the holidays, and have been dropping since, both in Maine and across the country. However, heath officials are concerned that cases might be leveling off rather than continuing to decline.

Melissa Skahan performs a temperature check on someone as staff and volunteers arrive before the first day of the Northern Light Mercy Hospital mass vaccination clinic at the Portland Expo on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 increased slightly to 69 on Thursday, including 23 in critical care and eight on a ventilator. Like cases, hospitalizations have leveled off over the last two weeks, ranging between 62 and 75 daily, after decreasing steadily from a high of 207 on Jan. 13. A total of 1,549 people have been in the hospital with COVID-19 at some point since last March.

As for vaccinations, Maine had administered 375,596 COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Thursday morning. Of those, 244,698 were first doses, which represents 18.2 percent of the population, and 130,898 people, or 9.7 percent, have been fully vaccinated. Among Mainers age 70 and older, who are at higher risk for serious illness or death from COVID-19, 70 percent have received one shot and 26 percent have gotten both.

Maine has slipped a little in vaccination progress compared to other states. As of Wednesday, the state ranked 20th among states with 24.88 shots administered per 100,000 people, slightly above the national rate of 24.3 shots per 100,000 people, according to a state tracker by Bloomberg News. But Maine is even further back — 34th — in the percentage of population that has received both shots.

This week, more than 55,000 vaccine doses arrived in Maine — the highest weekly total so far. State officials will announced next week’s expected allotment later Thursday.

Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah is expected to update the media Thursday afternoon.

Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday announced that teachers and child care staff will now be eligible for vaccinations, regardless of age. That decision came after a directive from President Biden, who on Tuesday called on states to administer at least the first shot to all teachers and child care workers by the end of the month. The Biden administration has been vocal about wanting to see schools open to more in-person learning after many months of remote or hybrid learning. Maine had been among a dwindling number of states that had not prioritized teachers.

Biden also announced this week that vaccine production is ahead of schedule. He said there will be enough vaccine from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for all adult Americans to be inoculated by the end of May, which is two months earlier than expected.

Last week, Maine shifted its vaccination strategy to an entirely age-based system. Mills said age is the biggest factor in determining risk of serious illness or death. More than 85 percent of Maine deaths from COVID-19 have been people over the age of 70.

This week, availability opened up to those between the ages of 60 and 69, and there are now many more vaccination sites and options to chose from, including large sites like the Portland Expo, the former Marshalls store in Sanford and the former Pier 1 store in South Portland, and at Walgreens, Walmart and Hannaford pharmacy locations across the state.

Mills directed the pharmacies Wednesday to exclusively prioritize teachers.

This story will be updated.


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