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Dr. Shah: 'We Can Outrun The Variants' If We Maintain Precautions

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
A man standing near a cannon takes a photo of the sun rising behind Peaks Island on a calm but cold morning, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Portland, Maine.

The number of new cases of COVID-19 added in Maine on Thursday is the lowest since November. So is the positivity rate, which is a little more than 2%.

Despite those good signs, state CDC director Nirav Shah says the detection of a COVID-19 variant this week in Maine is concerning. Shah says the UK variant spreads more easily and could cause more serious illness and death.

“If we can keep up our guard, keep our masks, and keep vaccinating, my hope is that we can outrun the variants and be back squarely on that return to normalcy as quickly as possible,” he says.

Shah says the Maine CDC is working closely with the individual who contracted the variant to ensure they’re adhering to public health recommendations to limit its spread.

Maine is receiving one thousand more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine next week, for a total of 22,475.

Shah says the boost in allocation is helpful, but overall supply of the vaccine is still low. He says only a third of adults age 70 and older have received the vaccine.

“While we are thrilled that we’re getting an extra 1,000 doses, it’s important to keep in mind that we still have about 130,000 people in Maine who are 70 and over, who are still waiting to get vaccinated,” he says.

The state supply is also being supplemented next week with 4,800 doses sent directly to Walmart and Sam’s Club pharmacies. Vaccinations at those sites are set to begin on Friday.

More than 42,000 cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Maine since the pandemic began, including 175 cases added by the Maine CDC on Thursday.

No new deaths have been announced for the first time in just under two weeks.

More than 215,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered around the state.

This story was originally published at 8:40 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.