ELLSWORTH — The COVID-19 pandemic is a numbers game and remains so even as emergency orders have been lifted across the U.S. For Maine, the numbers are low, but are on the rise.
Looking at the same time period last year, there are more positive cases, more hospitalizations and more patients in intensive care units and on ventilators statewide. While the rates cannot compare to the winter months when hundreds of new cases were reported daily, the uptick is noticeable. For example, the seven-day average for positive cases stood at 21 cases per day on July 24, 2020. On July 26, 2021, there were 175 positive cases reported since July 23.
On July 26, 2020, 10 people were in intensive care units and three on ventilators. This July 26, nineteen people were in ICUs with 10 on ventilators.
Fueling the rise in cases, in part, is the Delta variant, but it has not dominated Maine as in some states, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Communications Director Robert Long said. But, like most of the country, positive cases and hospitalizations are almost exclusively among the unvaccinated. People ages 18 to 24 accounted for 46 percent of positive cases as of July 23.
“We have seen an increase in the number of cases associated with the Delta variant in Maine, but the data do not show it to be the dominant strain in Maine at this time,” Long said on July 27.
“The most consistent thing we are seeing is that new cases continue to predominantly be among people who are not fully vaccinated,” he said. Hospitals are seeing the same trend among patients admitted with COVID-19 — those patients have not received any of the three COVID-19 vaccinations currently available.
So, what does Hancock County look like? Over the 14-day period ending July 26, there were four positive, two inconclusive and 1,297 negative COVID tests, for a 0.3 percent positivity rate versus the seven-day statewide rate of 1.43 percent reported that day. Currently, neither Northern Light Maine Coast nor Northern Light Blue Hill hospitals have any COVID-19 inpatients.
“We continue to see an upward trend in our one- and two-week positivity rate, overall positive numbers, and slightly with new admissions,” said Dr. James Jarvis, senior physician executive and system incident command, Northern Light Health. He preceded that by stating, “Vaccination continues to be the best form of protection against serious illness from COVID-19.”
High rates of vaccination in Hancock County have helped the positive case numbers stay low.
According to Maine CDC data, in Ellsworth, 83 percent of eligible residents have received at least one vaccine dose. Bucksport stands at 84 percent, and Orland at 70 percent. Vaccination rates above 90 percent are found in Blue Hill Peninsula towns, Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor. Hancock’s rate is 78 percent, Franklin’s is 74 percent and Sullivan’s is 73 percent. In Castine, the vaccination rate stands at 61 percent, close to the statewide average.
Herd, or community, immunity is generally achieved when between 70 and 90 percent of residents are vaccinated against a disease, according to immunization and disease experts.
“Research shows that all three authorized COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against all COVID-19 variants, so getting vaccinated is the best thing that Maine residents and visitors can do to prevent themselves and loved ones from dying or needing to be hospitalized with COVID-19,” Long said.
Currently, the following Hancock County health clinics offer free vaccinations for people 18 years of age and above unless noted:
Blue Hill: Northern Light Primary Care, Sussman Building. Drop-in 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Bucksport: Regional Health Center, call 469-7371 or visit www.bucksportrhc.com.
Castine: Northern Light Primary Care. Drop-in 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Ellsworth: Northern Light Walk-in Care and Pediatric Care. Call 664-5311 or visit www.covid.northernlight.org, 12 years of age and above.
Gouldsboro: Northern Light Primary Care. Drop-in 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Mount Desert Island: MDI Hospital. Visit www.mdihospital.org/covid-19-vaccine.
Southwest Harbor: Northern Light Primary Care. Drop-in 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Stonington: Northern Light Primary Care. Drop-in 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In addition, Walmart, Walgreens and Hannaford pharmacies also offer vaccinations, although the particular vaccine type may vary from week to week. All three pharmacies request scheduling appointments through their websites.