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Maine sets yet another record for COVID hospitalizations on Monday

Virus Outbreak Idaho
Kyle Green
FILE - Dr. William Dittrich M.D. looks over a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive care unit (MICU) at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, Aug. 31, 2021.

The month of November has seen several record-breaking days for COVID hospitalizations in Maine, and that trend continued on Monday with 296 people hospitalized.

The number of people in critical care has increased to 87 and the number of people who need ventilators has also increased, to 36.

Dr. Dora Mills of the MaineHealth hospital network says staff are stretched thin and hospitals are managing the surge by spreading out patients across its system.

"While I'm concerned about this week, I'm more concerned about the two weeks after Thanksgiving," she says.

Mills says now is the time to pause and reconsider Thanksgiving plans. She suggests people move celebrations outdoors around fire pits. Make sure everyone who is eligible has been vaccinated. And if some guests are not yet eligible for the vaccine, wear masks indoors.

Patients are more spread out among rural hospitals, says Dr. James Jarvis of Northern Light Health. While he says it's good that smaller hospitals are now able to care for COVID patients, the sheer number is alarming.

And he also worries that holiday gatherings will fuel even more transmission across the state.

"And so the concern is, if it's not just one particular region of the state that's seeing a high rate, but the entire state, then there is no relief valve for one hospital to be able to rely on another one."

Jarvis says hospitals are already strained and many ERs are boarding patients who would normally be in an inpatient bed.

He says the way to get the surge under control is to wear masks indoors in public places, wash hands, stay home when sick, and get vaccinated.