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Maine sets a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations as the fall surge keeps going

Virus Outbreak Hospitals Prepare
Robert F. Bukaty
Medical personnel discuss patients that had been admitted for testing for the coronavirus at the entrance Central Maine Medical Center on Friday, March 13, 2020, in Lewiston, Maine.

More people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine now than at any previous point in the pandemic.

The Maine CDC says 248 people are hospitalized with the disease on Friday. That breaks a previous record of 235 set in late September.

72 patients are receiving critical care, and 31 are on ventilators.

As hospitals continue to fill up with COVID-19 patients, emergency responders are being stretched thin as they are now transporting more critically ill patients. LifeFlight officials say they are seeing more coronavirus patients, primarily from rural hospitals, who need to be flown to major health centers in Bangor, Lewiston, Portland and even Boston.

LifeFlight executive director Tom Judge says calls are sometimes delayed as patients must be rerouted upon arrival.

"A little hospital calls for a COVID patient to be flown to big hospital. We are there on site with team and aircraft and all of a sudden that big hospital doesn't have a bed anymore," Judge says.

Judge says those scenarios double the crews' response time.

The state CDC is not releasing new COVID-19 case counts today due to the Veterans Day holiday on Thursday.

The latest coronavirus surge has been raging in Maine since late in the summer. It's driven by the highly contagious Delta variant and has been spreading most heavily in rural communities with low vaccination rates.

State health officials the surge could continue as Mainers spend more time gathering indoors during the colder weather and holidays.