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Omicron accounts for increasing share of cases as COVID-19 hospitalizations spike in Maine

Dr. Nirav Shah
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

The omicron variant now accounts for at least 8% of COVID-19 cases in Maine, up from about 5% of cases in mid-December.

During an appearance on Maine Calling Monday, state CDC director Nirav Shah
said the omicron variant is not yet causing a majority of cases in Maine, but it may only be a matter of time.

"It's expanding at such a pace that it will not be long before omicron is at least on equal footing as the Delta variant, if not having overtaken it entirely," he said.

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine is up sharply on Monday after staying generally steady over the past few days.

The Maine CDC reports that 369 people are currently in the hospital with the disease — that's up from around 330 a week ago. But it's still below the state's record-high total of 384, which was set in mid-December.

Of those, 113 patients are in critical care and 54 are on ventilators.

Even with hospitalizations on the rise in Maine, there is still hesitancy about getting the vaccine.

On Maine Calling, Shah addressed a common concern that the shot will cause long-term side effects. He said the vaccine doesn't stick around in the body for more than a couple days or weeks.

"And the ingredients in these vaccines are remarkably basic. There's a compound called PEG that's used in just about everything in modern life. There's a couple particles of RNA. And then there's some salt to keep the vaccines fresh," he said.

The benefit of the vaccine, Shah said, is that it prepares the immune system to recognize the virus and fight it.