BAR HARBOR — COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maine hit a record high of 330 this week as cases continue to rise following the Thanksgiving holiday. At Mount Desert Island Hospital, 57 positive COVID-19 cases were recorded in the month of November – the highest to date – while hospitalizations rose from an average of one per week to five by the end of the month.
“Overload of the hospital system statewide is impacting the availability of surgery, inpatient care and emergency transportation,” said Dr. J.R. Krevans Jr., Chair of Infection Control at MDI Hospital. “We urge everyone in our community to get vaccinated and boosted if you have not yet done so.”
Since Thanksgiving, the Maine Center for Disease Control has reported more than 1,000 positive cases and 21 deaths. With emerging concern about the new omicron variant, the state is working with The Jackson Laboratory to monitor for the variant, said Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah. Overall, about 65 percent of people hospitalized for COVID-19 are not vaccinated said Shah, and those who have not received the vaccine make up about 90 percent of intensive care unit patients.
“Vaccines make a big difference. They are safe, effective and keep most people from getting very ill and dying,” said Dr. Julian Kuffler, director of medical education at MDI Hospital. “The vast majority of individuals who are on ventilators and dying did not get vaccinated.”
As we all continue to work together to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we urge our community and area businesses to join us in reinforcing the core protection measures of vaccination, masking, ventilation and distancing. Together, we can reduce the spread of COVID-19 over the holidays.
Masks, proper ventilation and distancing enhance the protection of vaccines and boosters. Although mask mandates have been lifted, the U.S. and Maine CDC continue to recommend masking in all public spaces. “Masks work. They prevent you from infecting others and others from harming you,” said Dr. Krevans. “Do not enter a business where most people are unmasked. All public facing employees should be masked, and customers should be requested or required to mask by clear signage.”
To help ensure families can gather safely, Drs. Krevans and Kuffler recommend using home rapid tests for all guests if anyone present will be unvaccinated. In the workplace, he recommends that holiday parties be held outdoors or not at all.
Vaccines and boosters continue to be the best way to protect yourself and others. COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots are available free of charge at most local pharmacies and healthcare facilities. Children age 5-plus are eligible to receive the vaccine and adults age 18-plus are eligible to receive the booster.
To learn more about vaccination at MDI Hospital, visit mdihospital.org or talk to your health care provider.