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Hospital Officials Say Resources Are Stretched Thin As Maine Reports 390 New Cases of COVID-19 On Thursday

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
In a Friday, March 13, 2020 file photo, Steve Moody, director of nursing at Central Maine Medical Center, mops the floor of a tent outside the emergency entrance to the hospital where patients are tested for of the coronavirus, in Lewiston, Maine.

Maine's health care community is making a direct appeal to the public to please take the steps necessary to combat COVID-19.

On Thursday, leaders from Northern Light Health, MaineHealth, Central Maine Healthcare and MaineGeneral Health held a briefing to detail a situation that they say is straining health care resources close to the breaking point.

"When I look at the fact that we are currently today holding 50 patients in our emergency department who should be in a hospital bed, we're very close," says Dr. Joan Boomsma, a physician with MaineHealth.

Boomsma says the sudden surge in COVID cases is having a domino effect on all of the state's medical resources, and hampering the ability to respond to other illnesses, injuries and behavioral health cases.

"We don't have a lot of other tricks up our sleeves or other places we can put patients, and when ERs are full of patients who need to be in the hospital, it means our ability to take more patients into the ER is compromised," she says.

Boomsma says one of the troubling factors is an increase in young children contracting the delta variant and needing hospital care.

Dr. Steven Diaz with MaineGeneral Health in Augusta says his hospital has also seen an upswing in young patients, for whom no vaccine is yet available.

Diaz says it's more important than ever take the steps to protect those children, and the wider community, from the disease.

"We need everyone to please get vaccinated for the health of the community. We also need you to wear masks inside. Social distancing. Please stay home if you're ill, and support those around you by participating in the process," he says.

Diaz also stresses that the Delta variant is significantly different from the initial virus, and people don't know how it will develop, what the long-term consequences could be, or what subsequent strains may arise in unvaccinated populations.

Chris Laird, an associate vice president at Northern Light Health and a critical care nurse at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, says that there are now 17 patients in his intensive care unit

“The patients that we have right now in the ICU are some of the sickest patients that we’ve seen. They are critically ill. We have some patients that we’re having to prone, they are intubated for a long period of time, and we’re truly doing a lot to manage them and keep them alive. So it is really difficult right now," he says.

Meanwhile, case numbers and hospitalizations continue to increase.

Maine is reporting another 390 cases of the coronavirus on Thursday.

That's the highest single-day count of new cases since early last May, and it comes as the state CDC works to process a recent glut of test results. It has pushed the seven-day average of new cases to 204.

No additional deaths were reported today.

A New York Times tracker shows that Maine actually has the nation's lowest per capita rate of new infections. Still, the new spike is serious. On Thursday, 133 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine. Fifty-nine were in critical care and 27 were on ventilators.