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Health

Maine's COVID-19 State Of Emergency Ends, CDC Holds Final Briefing

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Nick Woodward
/
Maine Public
After more than 15 months and 190 briefings, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, gives the last regularly scheduled coronavirus news conference on Wednesday in the Cabinet room of Maine State House in Augusta.

Wednesday marks the end of Maine's civil state of emergency. Governor Janet Mills first declared a state of emergency in March 2020, three days after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the state. During that time, there were 190 briefings from the state CDC. And as health officials wrapped up their final one this afternoon, they say it's a signal the pandemic has entered a different phase.

The end of the civil state of emergency comes after more than 69,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Maine and 858 people have died. But new cases and deaths have been declining. The seven-day case average is 24 and the positivity rate is .08%. Speaking in the cabinet room at the State House, the setting of where Gov. Janet Mills first announced actions she would take against the coronavirus, she said the state of emergency is no longer necessary.

"It's not that we've cured a disease, or that we banned the virus or removed the pandemic forever from our lives. Or that we've thrown caution to the wind, or that everything now is as it was 16 months ago. But the state of civil emergency is over and it is time," Mills said.

Maine also has one of the highest vaccination rates in the US. State CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah says 90% of people over age 65 are vaccinated. Nearly 70 percent of those eligible are fully vaccinated. And 61% of the entire population has been vaccinated. But he also cautioned that despite Maine's progress, there will continue to be more cases, outbreaks, and deaths.

"But how much longer, with what intensity, and what impact on our state and our lives, well, that's up to us. And specifically, how many of us get vaccinated," Shah said.

One looming concern is the Delta variant. It's prompted other countries and U.S. counties to reinstate masks recommendations and requirements. Shah says that's not necessary in Maine. Only four cases of the variant have been identified in the state, and vaccination rates, he says, put Maine in a good position. Still, those who aren't vaccinated are at risk.

"Our job now is to figure out who hasn't been vaccinated in Maine, why they haven't been vaccinated," Shah said.

And, he said, what would prompt them to get the shot. Along with vaccinations, health officials say testing will remain a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19, especially for nursing facilities and schools. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.