The number of hospital patients with COVID-19 remained stable Tuesday as Maine reported 454 new cases in the first update in three days.

Meanwhile, adults over 50 and immunocompromised people are now eligible for a second booster dose of vaccine. Federal health officials are recommending the fourth shot for people over 65 or otherwise at high rise of COVID complications.

A total of 94 people were hospitalized with the virus Tuesday, down from 96 on Monday. The number has held relatively steady for the past 10 days after plummeting 78 percent from a peak of 436 on Jan. 13. Of those hospitalized Tuesday, 17 were in the ICU and four were on ventilators.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not process case counts on weekends, so the new cases reported Tuesday were submitted to the state on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The state also reported five additional deaths in its update Tuesday. Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 235,293 cases of COVID-19, and 2,200 deaths.

The FDA on Tuesday approved a second booster shot of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for those ages 50 and older and immunocompromised people, although it stopped short of recommending them for everyone over 50.

Dr. Peter Marks, who leads the FDA office for vaccine safety and efficacy, said the decision was “relatively straightforward.”


“This fourth booster dose is something that evidence that we have now from Israel suggests that by getting this, one can reduce the risk of hospitalization and death in this population of older individuals,” Marks said during a conference call with reporters, CNBC reported.

The U.S. CDC recommended Tuesday that those in highest risk groups – including people over 65 – get the fourth shot now that eligibility has been approved.

“This is especially important for those 65 and older and those 50 and older with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for severe disease from COVID-19 as they are the most likely to benefit from receiving an additional booster dose at this time, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a written statement.

Vaccines continue to be provided at retail pharmacies and through medical providers.

A report released Monday by the Maine CDC shows that 10.4 percent of positive tests sampled in March were the more contagious omicron BA.2, a subvariant that has spread worldwide. Nationally, the omicron subvariant has become the dominant strain, with 55 percent of samples testing for the subvariant, 70 percent in the Northeast.

With vaccinations working well against the subvariant, and prior infections also providing a level of protection, many public health experts are not projecting a major surge in hospitalizations in the coming months, although an increase in cases is possible.

The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, from the University of Washington, is projecting continued low levels of the virus this spring, as an estimated 75 percent or more of the U.S. population has some form of immunity against COVID-19.

But Dr. Peter Hotez, an epidemiologist with the University of Houston, said in a March 26 tweet that what may happen next in the U.S. with the omicron subvariant is a “bit of a head scratcher.” Some European countries are seeing increases caused by the subvariant, while others are not.

“We’re in uncharted waters,” Hotez said.

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