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Maine CDC Urges Vaccination As State Tops 500 COVID-19 Cases For Third Consecutive Day

Sharon Daley, Oliver Blank
Robert F. Bukaty
Nurse Sharon Daley administers a COVID-19 vaccination to Oliver Blank, 18, Friday, March 19, 2021, on the island of Islesford, Maine.

Case numbers and positivity rates of COVID-19 in Maine continue to climb, as do hospitalizations. State health officials say it's critical that people get vaccinated to help curb the spread of the virus.

The Maine CDC added 579 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and one more death. In all, 55,953 cases of the disease have been identified in Maine, with 758 deaths.

The seven day average for new daily cases of COVID-19 in Maine has reached 422. The last time that number topped 400 was in January.

The positivity rate is also up, at 3.5%. And hospitalizations hit 107 on Thursday, up from about 70 a week ago.

Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah says the virus is opportunistic, and it will go to people who are susceptible.

"All of this suggests the reason and urgency behind why vaccination remains critical now," he says.

Nearly half of all people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Maine have received a first dose. The state continues to rank among the best in the U.S. for the pace of vaccinations, but health officials say they're looking to make access to shots easier, possibly through walk-up clinics where appointments aren't necessary.

Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew says dedicated clinics for workers in certain industries are also under consideration.

"Workers in grocery stores, or workers in the food processing industry here in Maine. Migrant farm — seasonal workers — will be arriving in Maine as well beginning in May and June," she says.

Lambrew says creating these clinics is contingent on vaccine supplies.

The state of Maine is receiving more than 36,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines directly from the federal government next week, as use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine continues to be paused pending review of possible connections to rare cases of blood clotting in some recipients. That's a slight reduction of about 200 doses compared to last week.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah says the state is now using Moderna for populations who would have otherwise received the one-shot J&J vaccine.

"Our public health nurses are continuing to work to vaccinate at-risk groups. And our work to vaccinate folks in homebound settings, we're working to get them Moderna, not J&J. So, we're still charging ahead," he says.

Maine's mobile vaccine unit has also switched to Moderna. It's currently in Oxford and will next open in Windham on Sunday.

Appointments are still available and can be made by calling 1-888-445-1111.