Maine reported 21 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death Thursday, hours after the state of civil emergency for the pandemic came to an end.

With vaccinations tamping down cases, the Mills administration ended the state of civil emergency Wednesday. All COVID-19 restrictions enacted by the state have been lifted, but federal masking requirements in airports and while taking public transportation remain in effect. Invoking the state of civil emergency, which began on March 15, 2020, granted the Mills administration broad powers to impose sweeping mandates on masking, gathering sizes, school operations and many other aspects of life during the pandemic.

Registration has closed for the “Don’t Miss Your Shot: Vaccinationland Sweepstakes” with 350,256 Maine residents who have had at least one shot registering for the $891,207 prize, to be announced on July 4 by Gov. Janet Mills. The prize totals $1 for every Mainer who has received at least one shot.

While COVID-19 cases are down nationwide, some states are seeing increasing cases, notably Nevada, Missouri, Arkansas and Utah, where vaccination rates are much lower than in Maine. For instance, in Nevada and Missouri, cases total about 15 per 100,000 people, compared to 1.7 per 100,000 in Maine, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Vermont has the lowest case-population ratio in the nation, at 0.8 cases per 100,000 people.

Public health experts warned in a Wednesday article in Scientific American that areas with large numbers of unvaccinated people are still vulnerable to surges of COVID-19, especially with the emergence of new, more transmissible variants, such as the Delta variant. The Delta variant, first detected in India, is 40 to 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was first discovered in the U.K.

While Maine is one of the most vaccinated states in the country, rates vary widely between counties. Cumberland County is the most-immunized in the state, with 69.8 percent of its population vaccinated, and Somerset is the least-vaccinated at 46.3 percent.

But because case counts are low and statewide vaccination rates are robust, Maine does not need to recommend or mandate indoor mask wearing for fully-vaccinated people, said Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director, in a media briefing Wednesday.

Israel is re-imposing a mask mandate – even for fully-vaccinated people – after a surge in Delta variant cases, and in the United States, Los Angeles County is recommending everyone wear a mask indoors.

Mills described Maine’s position relative to the pandemic in a media briefing Wednesday.

“It’s not that we’ve cured the disease, or that we’ve banned the virus or removed the pandemic forever from our lives, or that we’ve thrown caution to the wind or that everything now is exactly how it was 16 months ago, but the state of civil emergency is no longer necessary,” she said.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 69,054 cases of COVID-19, and 859 deaths. Through Thursday, 786,461 people in Maine have received the final dose of the COVID-19 shot, representing 58.5 percent of the state’s 1.3 million population.

Mills, Shah and Jeanne Lambrew, Maine’s health and human services commissioner, held a final regularly-scheduled COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday in Augusta. The Maine CDC had held 190 such briefings over the past year.

Shah said the vaccines are very effective at preventing COVID-19, and are the bulk of the reason why cases, hospitalizations and deaths have plummeted.

“COVID-19 vaccines have fundamentally altered our relationship to COVID-19,” Shah said. “A year ago our lives revolved around the virus, like earth around the sun, but now for those who are fully vaccinated the virus effectively revolves around them, unable to cause much harm.”

As of Thursday, 26 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine, including 16 in critical care.

Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said in an email update Thursday that the agency will no longer update case numbers on weekends or holidays. Data will be updated on the Maine CDC website Tuesdays through Saturdays. He said the state would issue notifications of elevated public risk when warranted.

 

 


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