Maine reported 585 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and seven additional deaths, as the number of infections remains high in the state and federal regulators are on the verge of approving the vaccines for elementary-aged children.

According to documents filed with the Food and Drug Administration, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was 90.7 percent effective against symptomatic disease for those ages 5-11 in a study that included more than 2,000 children. An FDA advisory panel is set to meet on Tuesday, followed by a U.S. CDC advisory board on Nov. 2, so children could be getting shots in arms as soon as the first week of November.

Currently, the vaccines are approved for ages 12 and older, but public health experts have said expanding immunization to children in elementary school could help tamp down the virus as children, although typically not infected with severe disease, can be vectors of the virus to others.

The Biden administration is planning a vast rollout of the vaccine to the nation’s 28 million elementary-school children, including at many school clinics.

Maine’s case numbers continue to be high, with the seven-day average of daily new cases at 464.4 on Friday, compared to 401.9 a week ago and 468.9 a month ago.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a tweet on Saturday that “we are still in this.”

“The virus is spreading fiercely in pockets of unvaccinated individuals. Will we go the way of the U.K., where cases are rising, along with hospitalizations? Or will cases decline as we go into the winter? That is up to us,” Shah said.

On Saturday, there were 206 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine, including 71 in critical care and 28 on ventilators. Two weeks ago, Maine reported 156 hospitalized, 44 in critical care and 23 on ventilators.

Maine currently has the 17th-highest virus prevalence in the nation, with 34 cases per 100,000 population, compared to the national average of 22 per 100,000, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute.

But when looking at the pandemic since it began in March 2020, Maine is still doing much better than most of the nation. In total, 100,967 Maine people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 1,122 have died.

So far, roughly 1 in 13 Mainers have contracted the virus, although the rates are much higher in some areas, especially inland and in rural counties. The highest rate of overall infections is in Androscoggin County, where about 1 in 10 residents have gotten COVID-19. That’s twice the rate of Hancock County, which has the lowest case rate during the pandemic.

But Maine’s per capita rate of overall cases since the pandemic began – 7,425 per 100,000 people or 7.4 percent of the population – is still lower than every state except Vermont and Hawaii, and slightly more than half the national rate of 13,599 cases per 100,000 people.

The virus continues to spread in schools. According to data updated Thursday, there are 125 schools across Maine that are dealing with an active outbreak of at least three cases that are epidemiologically linked. That’s up from 111 outbreaks the previous week. The number of cases associated with schools is 2,196.

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