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Mills thanks workers at Maine Medical Center as COVID-19 hospitalizations hit record high

Gov. Janet Mills Visits MMC ED 6.jpg
Maine Medical Center
Hillary Bachelder, RN, speaks with Gov. Janet Mills at MMC's Emergency Department.

As Maine grapples with a post-holiday surge of COVID-19 cases that is seeing record numbers of people needing hospitalized care, Gov. Janet Mills visited a COVID-19 unit at Maine Medical Center in Portland on Friday to thank exhausted workers.

On Friday, 391 Mainers were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 110 people in critical care and 59 on ventilators.

Speaking outside the hospital after her visit, Mills told reporters she saw two stories unfold during her tour of a COVID-19 critical care unit: one of patients who are sick and suffering, and the other of staff working tirelessly to help them.

"The stories that I saw today, though different, are inextricably connected and Maine people have the power to write an ending defined by health and hope," she said. "The way to do that is to get vaccinated today.

"It's the way we got through the polio epidemic: vaccination. It's the way we got through the smallpox epidemic: vaccination. It means protecting yourself, and it means protecting the people behind these doors, working day in and day out," Mills said.

Mills said getting vaccinated is the best way to thank health care workers. And the president of Maine Medical Center, Jeff Sanders, agreed.

"These individuals have borne the brunt of the pandemic, something we haven't seen in 100 years. The medical center here opened in the early 1870s. We've seen pandemics before, but nothing like what we've seen over the past two years. We're getting ready to enter our third year of the pandemic. Our team is tired. They're exhausted. And they're frustrated," he said.

Sanders noted that the COVID-19 critical care unit at the hospital is populated by people who are not vaccinated.

The visit comes as Maine reports 1,328 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday.

That continues a trend of some of the highest daily case counts of the pandemic, which have surpassed 1,000 since early December. The seven day average of cases is now 777 — the highest since before Christmas.

The state CDC says seven additional people have died from the disease.