Maine reported 1,001 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and two additional deaths.
The seven-day average is now 694 new cases per day and has more than doubled in the past two weeks. Maine continues to have one of the highest infection rates in the country, with 354 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days. The national average is 165 cases per 100,000 people. Maine’s infection rate ranks fifth after Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachusetts and New York.
Maine hospitalization data had not been updated Thursday morning. On Wednesday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported a total of 209 COVID patients in Maine hospitals. After doubling over the previous three weeks, the patient count has fluctuated between 207 and 209 since Monday.
While Maine has seen the pace of new infections and hospitalizations slow this week, the Northeast overall has not seen any sustained decrease in case numbers, suggesting that new, more contagious omicron subvariants are still spreading at high rates. And wastewater testing around the state also indicates the virus is still prevalent and not receding.
Official case counts indicate whether transmission is speeding up or slowing down, but they undercount actual infections because so many people now rely on at-home tests that are not included in official counts.
The sharp rise in reported cases in the past three weeks and the designation change in eight Maine counties to high transmission levels prompted the Bangor and Portland school districts to reinstate indoor mask mandates. Bangor’s requirement began Monday, while Portland’s took effect Thursday.
The Maine counties designated as high transmission are Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Aroostook.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends mask wearing while indoors in counties with high levels of transmission. The designations are based on infection rates, hospitalizations and hospital capacity.
Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 253,654 cases and 2,332 deaths.
This story will be updated.