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Dr. Shah: More contagious omicron variant may be driving COVID uptick in Maine

Nirav Shah
Robert F. Bukaty
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference Monday, March 16, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

Early data suggests the BA.2 variant of COVID-19 will cause an increase in cases in Maine, says state CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah.

He says wastewater surveillance and an uptick in hospitalizations have shown consistent increases in COVID-19 across the state in recent days.

"We suspect that much of this is being driven by the arrival of this BA.2 variant, especially in the Northeast, where it's now above 50% of all of the cases that we're finding," Shah said during an interview with Maine Calling.

Shah is urging people to prepare by getting boosters if eligible, having rapid tests on hand, and having a plan to contact a medical provider in order to access COVID medication if necessary.

For Mainers ages 50 and older who are now eligible for another round of COVID-19 boosters, Shah says it's worth choosing a vaccine type different from your previous shots.

"Each vaccine's composition is a little bit different. They all get the job done. But the benefit of mixing and matching is that your body's immune system is exposed to a slightly broader array of viruses or particle of viruses that it can then prepare against," he said.

The Maine CDC is reporting five additional coronavirus deaths since the end of last week. That brings the state's pandemic death toll to 2,207.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID, 104, hasn't changed since yesterday. But the number of patients in critical care, 30, is up by two. Four patients are on ventilators.

Until yesterday, the number of daily COVID hospitalizations had been hovering in the 90s in recent weeks, after falling dramatically from earlier in the year.

Six hundred and sixty-three new coronavirus cases have been reported in Maine since the end of last week.