The number of COVID-19 patients in Maine hospitals continued to decline on Sunday even as some students in the state planned to return to school without masks on Monday as the danger from the coronavirus ebbs.

There were 144 people in Maine hospitals with the virus on Sunday , according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 32 were in critical care units, and 10 were on ventilators. On Saturday, 154 patients were hospitalized statewide with the infectious disease.

The majority of those seriously ill with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, health authorities have said. Statewide, 989,445 Mainers have been fully vaccinated, or 73.61 percent of the population.

The Maine CDC reported additional death from the virus on Sunday, bringing the state’s death toll since the pandemic began to 2,136.

On Thursday, all 16 Maine counties were classified as being only at medium risk for infection from the coronavirus for the first time in months, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That change means that masking indoors is no longer universally recommended. In local stores, more shoppers are unmasking, but not all. However, health officials still urge people who are immunocompromised or at high risk of severe illness to continue to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.



For the state’s schools, Maine’s official recommendation is now that mask wearing should become optional starting on Wednesday. It will be up to individual school districts to decide whether to rescind mask mandates, and many already are doing so or preparing to based on a steady drop in cases.

Schools in York and Lewiston have dropped the masking requirement starting Monday; masking will now be optional, as long as the case count doesn’t suddenly climb, superintendents of those districts announced.

Schools elsewhere in York County are dropping the mask mandate on Wednesday, following the new state recommendations.

The Portland school district plans to continue requiring masks at least until warmer weather allows students, faculty and staff members to spend more time outdoors and until the district has a period of stable low case counts, Tess Nacelewicz, spokeswoman for Portland Public Schools, told the Press Herald on Thursday.

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