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Medical Experts: Delta Variant Likely Contributing To Maine's Upswing In Coronavirus Cases

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Jennifer Mitchell
Maine Public
Northern Light Health's Dr. James Jarvis gives a tour of the mass vaccination site at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021.

The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus appears to be fueling an upswing in new COVID-19 case numbers in Maine and around the country.

Health experts estimate that the Delta variant accounts for about 83 percent of cases in the U.S.

And Dr. Dora Mills of MaineHealth says some cases are being reported in fully vaccinated individuals, although the symptoms in those cases are less severe.

"That's what we're seeing at MaineHealth and our hospitals around the state and New Hampshire, is that the very, very vast majority who are sick enough to be hospitalized are unvaccinated," Mills said in an interview on Maine Calling on Wednesday.

After daily case counts bottomed out to the single digits in late June and early July, they have again been increasing.

On Wednesday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 47 new cases, and an additional five deaths linked to the disease.

As the Delta variant of the coronavirus fuels new cases in Maine and across the country, health experts say getting the vaccine now is more important than ever.

Also on Maine Calling, Dr. James Jarvis with Northern Light Health said the health system's positivity rate over the last week has again crested above the 1% threshold of concern, with an influx of patients seeking treatment at clinics.

He says these are younger people, whose vaccination rate lags behind that of older adults.

"Many of the individuals were not only younger than 40, they were younger than 20. And so I think that should be a cause for concern for people, that this is now becoming a disease of the unvaccinated, and particularly younger individuals," he said.

Jarvis says it's not a bad idea to continue masking in public places in order to protect children younger than 12, who have no approved vaccine yet, and those with health conditions that make them more vulnerable.

According to studies in the UK, the Delta variant can cause breakthrough infections in about 20% of fully vaccinated people.

Mills says some fully vaccinated individuals in Maine are testing positive, but she says such cases tend to be more mild and don't require hospital treatment.