Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise again. After reaching near record lows in June and July, the recent fall surge rivals any of the metrics from the pandemic’s worst day so far.
Going into the Thanksgiving holiday, Maine hospitals were already experiencing record hospitalizations and patients requiring a ventilator. As of Monday, 322 Mainers were in the hospital due to COVID-19. Of that number, 99 were in critical care and 43 were on a ventilator. Now, with the discovery of a new virus variant, a documented shortage of healthcare workers and fears of increased transmission during the winter months, the outlook is nothing short of bleak.
Maine’s seven-day PCR positivity (testing) rate on Nov. 23, two days before the holiday, stood at 7.9. As of Nov. 30, it had jumped to 11.3. This number, which represents the percentage of people who have tested positive over a seven-day period, stood at 0.79 on June 23.
As healthcare professionals have said throughout the last year, vaccines are key to tamping the virus. More than two-thirds of those in the hospital are unvaccinated, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control. And the unvaccinated are more likely to become severely ill and require hospitalization. Those who are vaccinated and still contract COVID-19 are much less likely to have severe cases compared to the unvaccinated. Maine CDC reports that of the 81,700 COVID-19 cases in Maine since vaccinations became easily available, roughly 13,250 cases have occurred among vaccinated people.
Thankfully, vaccination rates are ticking up. According to the Portland Press Herald, vaccination rates have increased recently by about 30 percent to roughly 9,200 shots per day, with ages 5-11 eligible in early November, and all Mainers aged 18 and older becoming eligible for booster shots last week.
Since 5- to 11-year-olds were cleared to receive the vaccine, 26.95 percent of Maine’s schoolchildren have gotten their shots, with 25,999 vaccinations given in about three weeks.
In all age brackets, 68 percent of Maine’s 1.3 million population have received their final dose. The state reported on Saturday that 280,626 booster doses have been administered.
The decision to get vaccinated is as much about protecting the community as it is about protecting oneself. The only way to get the virus under control and to stop the emergence of virus variants is to increase vaccinations not only in Maine but worldwide. As we’ve seen this past week, a variant that emerges in one country can make its way around the globe.
We urge those who have not yet rolled up their sleeves to do so. Every pharmacy, doctors’ office and healthcare clinic are offering the jabs free of charge. And, if you’ve gotten both doses, think about getting a booster shot, especially ahead of the holidays where indoor family gatherings will be common.