Maine reports big drop in COVID hospitalizations

·2 min read

May 24—Maine reported a sharp drop in the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide Tuesday.

A total of 184 people were hospitalized Tuesday morning, a one-day drop of 9 percent from 203 patients Monday. The number is 20 percent down from a three-month high of 231 patients reported one week ago.

Of those hospitalized Tuesday morning, 20 were in critical care and two were on ventilators.

Even as hospitalizations have been falling for the past week, infections continue to mount. The state reported 836 new COVID cases Tuesday as new and more contagious strains of the virus continue to spread.

The seven-day average of new cases rose to 619 on Tuesday. The daily average has been holding fairly steady after dropping from 809 cases a day early this month.

The state also reported one additional COVID-related death.

Maine had the nation's seventh-highest infection rate 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 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 2,344 deaths, and 260,471 cases. But the number of cases is underreported because many people who test positive use at-home tests and do not report the findings.