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Dr. Shah: 'Maine Is Experiencing A Surge Of The Unvaccinated'

Virus Outbreak Oregon Hospitals
Mike Zacchino/AP
In this Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, photo, a staff member treats a patient at the Critical Care Unit at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass, Ore. The hospitalization rate of unvaccinated COVID-19 is breaking records and squeezing hospital capacity, with several running out of room to take more patients.

Maine is experiencing a surge of the unvaccinated. Those are the words used by state CDC director Nirav Shah, who held a special press briefing Tuesday to provide an update on COVID-19 numbers that he says are troubling.

As of Shah's briefing, there were 117 people with COVID-19 hospitalized in Maine. That's more than double the number two weeks ago, or, one incubation period. And the number of people in the ICU - 59 - is more than the total number of people hospitalized two weeks ago.

"I can't think of a starker series of numbers to show the impact that COVID-19 and in particular, the delta variant, have had on Maine, just in a two week period," Shah says.

Shah says nearly 100% of positive test samples in Maine confirm the delta variant, which is more than twice as contagious as previous strains. It's sending younger, unvaccinated Mainers, mostly from rural areas, to the hospital. Of the remaining 25% of patients who have been vaccinated and have breakthrough cases, Shah says, most have underlying health conditions.

In addition to hospitalizations, the state is also seeing an increase in outbreaks. The CDC is currently investigating 21 across the state, nine of which are in health care facilities. Shah says those range from nursing homes to group homes to hospitals: the very settings that are covered under Governor Janet Mills' mandate that requires health care workers to be fully vaccinated by October 1.

"This is further evidence of why vaccinating our frontline health care workers now is more important than it ever was before," Shah says.

Given the surge in cases, and the number of children contracting Covid, Shah was asked whether the state is considering implementing a mask requirement for schools. He says as the civil state of emergency is no longer in effect, the CDC is issuing recommendations - and it recommends universal masking in schools regardless of vaccination status.