Maine reports another drop in COVID hospitalizations

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May 25—The number of patients with COVID-19 in Maine hospitals declined again Wednesday and has now fallen 23 percent over the past eight days.

There were 177 hospital patients statewide with COVID on Wednesday morning, down from 184 on Tuesday. The patient count reached a three-month high of 231 on May 17, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of those hospitalized Wednesday morning, 19 were in critical care and two were on ventilators.

The state also reported 560 new cases of COVID on Wednesday, and one additional death.

While daily case counts and hospitalizations have declined in Maine and other Northeast states, the region continues to experience the highest infection rates in the country. Western and southern states that did not experience the April surge are now reporting a steady rise in cases, however.

Maine has reported an average of 582 new cases per day over the past week, down from an average of 809 early this month.

Maine had the nation's seventh-highest infection rate as of Tuesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine reported 323 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, compared to a national rate of 220 per 100,000. The data had not been updated Wednesday morning.

The state's latest report on genomic testing of the virus shows that two of the newest omicron subvariants — BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 — now account for most new infections. The highly contagious strains cause less severe symptoms in most people than earlier strains of the virus, but can still result in hospitalizations of older people, those with underlying health conditions and those who have never been vaccinated, health officials say.

Other new subvariants — BA.4 and BA.5 — are circulating in a growing number of countries and are being closely watched in the United States. The strains have been detected in Minnesota and California, but not yet in the Northeast. They appear to be more infectious and can re-infect people who contracted COVID during the first omicron wave last winter, or who have waning immunity from vaccinations.

Health officials continue to recommend vaccinations and booster shots, which they say are still effective and protect people from severe symptoms and hospitalizations.

Since the pandemic began, the state has logged 2,345 deaths, and 261,031 cases. But the number of cases is underreported because many people who test positive use at-home tests and do not report the findings.