402 COVID-19 Cases, 1 Death Added On Friday
The Maine CDC reported more than 400 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.
The apparent surge, which follows weeks of increasing daily case numbers, is due to an epidemiological review of positive tests over the past 10 days, and the majority of the cases are from test results collected since Sunday. But state officials warn that case numbers are on the rise.
The state's the seven day average for daily cases is 249. That's the highest it's been since February, and it's a trend mirrored across the U.S. At a news briefing Thursday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said one likely driver of the increase is the prevalence of COVID-19 variants, even though they don't yet account for a predominant share of cases in Maine.
"The variants in question are more contagious. And sadly, they can sometimes even be more fatal or more serious. That's one piece," he said.
Another possible factor, Shah said, is that people are traveling more.
The major hospital systems in Maine all say they're prepared for a possible surge, even as they also continue to operate mass vaccination clinics. The chief medical officer for Lewiston-based Central Maine Healthcare, Dr. John Alexander, said vaccination clinics are being staffed by clinical and nonclinical employees from across their system and are also supported by volunteers.
"We've spread the risk, if you will, across our organization in terms of pulling people out to help serve that vital function of vaccination. And that's allowed us to stay ready for what may or may not occur in terms of a surge," he said.
So far, Alexander said, Central Maine Medical Center has not seen an increase in hospitalizations that correspond with the increasing case numbers.
The new cases drive the state's total number above 51,000.
And one more Mainer has died, bringing the death toll to 744.
Gov. Janet Mills announced on Thursday that the state is accelerating its timeline for vaccinating Mainers ages 16 and up. Eligibility for that group will begin Wednesday, April 7.
The Maine CDC’s next briefing on the pandemic is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday. Maine Public will bring that to you live.