Maine reported nine new COVID-19 deaths and 961 additional cases on Saturday, continuing a recent surge in the infectious disease here.
A total of 205 people were hospitalized statewide with the coronavirus, one more than on Friday. Thirty-six of the patients were in critical care and four on ventilators.
On Friday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported there had been 12 additional deaths from the virus.
Since the pandemic began in early 2020, the public health agency said 2,325 people have died in the state with COVID-19.
In the past week, new cases and hospitalizations have risen to the point where the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that people in much of Maine – including Cumberland County – wear masks in public, indoor spaces.
Much of the state is now included in the CDC’s “red” category, signifying high levels of community transmission of COVID-19 and high risk of placing a strain on local hospitals. The red counties are Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Aroostook.
Seven counties – York, Kennebec, Oxford, Franklin, Somerset, Waldo and Washington – are listed in the “yellow” category, meaning they have moderate levels of transmission.
Androscoggin is the only county in Maine that has retained its “green” status, signifying low levels of transmission.
The community levels are based on the number of new infections reported in the previous seven days, new COVID-19 hospital admissions, and the percent of staffed inpatient beds in use by COVID-19 patients. A county in the red category is considered to be at risk of straining hospital capacity.
Dr. Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer for MaineHealth and a former Maine CDC director, said Thursday that with some exceptions there are two major groups of those hospitalized with COVID-19: older, vaccinated people and younger, unvaccinated people.
Infections have spiked in Maine and elsewhere in New England as new, more contagious versions of the virus spread, but the new variants are causing less serious illness, doctors have said.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, a specialist in infectious diseases and professor at the University of Minnesota, said Maine is experiencing “the war going on between the virus and humans.” The increase of cases and hospitalizations indicates that the virus is winning the battle in Maine, he said.
Dr. Laura Blaisdell, a Maine pediatrician and infectious disease expert, said the good news is that so many of Mainers, 88 percent, have been vaccinated, which will protect most from serious illnesses. But that still leaves about 150,000 Mainers who didn’t get the shots, she said, and “the virus will find you.”