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Officials: Younger, Unvaccinated People Making Up Growing Share Of Maine Hospitalizations

Virus Outbreak US
Jeff Roberson
AP file
In this Nov. 24, 2020, file photo, registered nurse Chrissie Burkhiser puts on personal protective equipment as she prepares to treat a COVID-19 patient in the in the emergency room at Scotland County Hospital in Memphis, Mo.

More children and younger adults continue to be hospitalized for COVID-19 in Maine. A year ago, the average age of people hospitalized with the disease in Maine was in the mid-70s. Now, it's in the mid-40s.

Maine is one of the few states where case rates are staying high, and so are hospitalizations. According to the New York Times COVID tracker, the rate of hospitalizations has increased 18% over the past two weeks. And Dr. Dora Mills, chief health improvement officer for MaineHealth, says the health system has seen more children hospitalized over the past month and a half than was seen over the past year.

"We're seeing really a very different type of pandemic than we saw just a few months ago, and we believe this is due to B.1.1.7, or the UK variant, which is 50%-100% more contagious. But also, disproportionately more contagious among young people," she says.

Speaking on Maine Calling, Mills also said that the majority of hospitalized patients are from rural areas and haven't been fully vaccinated. Northern Light Health is seeing similar trends, says Dr. James Jarvis. He says many younger patients are so sick they are in critical care and need ventilators.

"Early on in the pandemic, we thought ventilators were the way to support people. Quickly found that that was not the case, that high-dose oxygen flow was better than putting people on ventilators. But of late, people have been so sick we've had to use ventilators, which often for people are that last-ditch effort," he says.