The state is continuing to clear a backlog in positive COVID-19 cases from the peak of the omicron wave as wastewater testing and other indicators show sustained improvement in pandemic conditions.

Wastewater testing in Maine is showing a substantial decline in virus prevalence, according to new data posted Tuesday on the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. Bangor, Portland, Brunswick and Belfast all showed declining levels of the virus in wastewater.

The town of Yarmouth released a report Sunday that showed a 95 percent decline in virus levels in its municipal wastewater system compared to the previous week. Yarmouth lowered its “COVID-O-Meter” from “high” transmission to “moderate.”

The virus in Yarmouth is at the “lowest level since mid-October 2021. The current level continues the decreasing trend that started with the Jan 10–11, 2022, sample,” according to the Yarmouth report.

Meanwhile, hospitalizations in Maine are down by more than 50 percent since a peak of 436 hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Jan. 13. That number had plummeted to 216 COVID patients Monday, before ticking up to 224 on Tuesday.

The dramatic reduction in hospitalizations over the last month has helped ease the strain on Maine hospitals, which had at least 400 hospitalized with the virus for 17 consecutive days in January.


The decline in community transmission of the virus has led to an easing of mask mandates in Maine and around the country. Portland, Freeport and Bath have lifted indoor mask mandates, and some states have set dates to remove mask mandates from public schools.

Maine does not have a statewide mandate for masking in schools, but most districts had followed the state’s recommendation that masks be required.

Some schools in Maine are announcing mask-optional policies, most recently Hermon schools, which set a March 14 date for masks becoming optional. RSU 18 in Oakland set a Feb. 28 date to make masks optional and other schools, such as Lewiston, are considering mask-optional policies.

Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, has said the agency will be re-evaluating school-masking recommendations next week, after February break. He said officials want to see if infection trends continue to improve after the break, or if cases rise again after families return from traveling.

The state added 2,609 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths Tuesday, bringing the pandemic total to 221,406 cases and 1,960 deaths. Most of the newly confirmed cases were from positive tests submitted to the state weeks ago, when CDC staff were overwhelmed with thousands of tests a day and could not process them to determine which were new cases and which were duplicates.

Robert Long, Maine CDC spokesman, said in an email Sunday that the agency is continuing to work on the backlog after automating a portion of the process to work through positive tests that had yet to be processed. Before the system was partially automated in February, the omicron wave overwhelmed the state agency’s ability to process tests in a timely manner, resulting in a backlog that at one point had swelled to nearly 60,000 cases.

On the vaccination front, 73.3 percent of Maine people are fully vaccinated, and 43 percent have received their booster shots.

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