Watch briefing: Maine CDC reports 24 new deaths, 217 additional COVID-19 cases – Press Herald

Maine is expected to receive an 8.4-percent increase in COVID-19 vaccine doses for use next week.

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Nirav Shah announced Thursday that the state will get 30,080 doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, up from the 27,740 doses that arrived this week. That’s a smaller increase than the previous week but still the most the state has received to date.

The total also doesn’t include doses distributed directly to pharmacy chains by the federal government. The state also will receive an additional 8,980 doses for use at 24 Walmart/Sam’s Club pharmacies and 47 Walgreens locations in Maine. It’s also possible that Maine could get doses of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine, which could win final approval by the FDA in the next few days.

The increase in vaccines comes as the CDC reported 24 additional deaths of individuals with COVID-19 on Thursday, a large jump that officials attributed to a review of death records over the past month. The CDC also reported 217 new cases of COVID-19 in the state, marking the third time in two weeks that the number of new infections topped 200 in a day.

Over the past two days, Maine CDC has reported a total of 41 deaths linked to COVID-19. Only two of those deaths happened in recent days, however. The rest occurred during the past month but were identified as having a link to COVID-19 by Maine CDC staff during periodic reviews of death certificates that have been filed with the state’s Division of Data, Research and Vital Statistics.

Still, the 41 additional deaths highlight the toll COVID-19 continues to take on Maine residents — particularly those age 70 or older — even as the number of new infections and hospitalizations trends downward and vaccine supplies increase.

A sign thanking people for getting their vaccination hangs at the vaccination clinic at St Christopher’s Church in York Wednesday, Feb. 24. Staff Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

Although the number of new infections varies considerably from day to day, ranging from 97 to 218 cases during the past week, Maine’s overall case numbers numbers had been declining following the late-fall and early-winter surge. The seven-day average stood at 150 on Thursday, up slightly from the average of 148 cases daily for the week ending on February 18 but more than four times lower than the peak average of 625 reported on January 15.

To date, the Maine CDC has reported 44,117 total confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 since the coronavirus was first detected in Maine last March. The 24 additional deaths reported on Thursday raises the statewide total to 701.

The pace of vaccinations also continues to quicken in Maine as more doses arrive in the state from the federal government and older Mainers gain additional options for receiving shots.

As of Thursday morning, health care providers had administered 316,462 total vaccine shots in Maine. That figure includes 211,451 first doses as well as 105,011 second doses of either the Pfizer of Moderna vaccines, both of which require two shots in order to achieve full inoculation.

Just under 16 percent of Maine’s population of roughly 1.3 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine as of Thursday while 7.8 percent have received both shots. The current phase of Maine’s vaccination campaign is focused on individuals age 70 or older, although eligibility could expand to people in the 65- to 69-year-old group as early as next week.

Maine ranked 15th among the states and the District of Columbia on Thursday in terms of the percentage of the population that had received at least one shot, according to tracking by Bloomberg.

Yet there are substantial geographic disparities in vaccinations due to how vaccine doses are allocated and the pace at which health care providers are administering those shots. The biggest disparity is in York County, which is in the bottom one-third of counties in terms of vaccination rates despite being the state’s second-most populous county and having the highest per capita COVID-19 infection rates.

Roughly 59 percent of the 193,000 Maine residents who are age 70 or older had received at least one dose as of Thursday morning while 16 percent had received both doses. Maine is the oldest state in the nation and more than 85 percent of the COVID-19 deaths reported in Maine, to date, have occurred among individuals in that 70+ age group even though they account for just 12 percent of cases.

Statewide on Thursday, 67 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday compared to 74 the previous day. There were 22 people being treated in intensive care units, down from the 25 reported on Wednesday, and eight individuals were connected to ventilators.

This story will be updated.

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