COVID-19 hospitalizations tick up slightly

The state reported one new death from COVID-19 and 236 new cases on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized increased slightly.

Updated statistics from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention show 97 patients hospitalized statewide with coronavirus. Of those, 19 were in critical care units and six on ventilators. The numbers were similar on Friday when there were 95 in the hospital, 21 in critical care units and five on ventilators.

One month ago, the number of patients hospitalized with the virus was 143, and on March 18 there were 107.

Like the majority of the country, all of Maine is listed as low risk or moderate risk of community spread of COVID-19.

On Thursday the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reclassified Aroostook County from low risk to moderate, which means case counts and hospitalizations are somewhat elevated, and residents at high health risk should resume wearing masks indoors.

The rest of Maine is classified as green, or low risk, which means there is no CDC recommendation people wear masks indoors. The guidelines are based on case counts, hospitalizations and hospital capacity. Low risk does not mean the virus is not spreading, but does indicate the rate of infections is not likely to place a strain on hospitals.

The new strain of COVID-19 — the more contagious BA.2— continues to make up more of the cases, an estimated 72 percent of the virus in the country, Rochelle Walensky, Director of U.S. CDC,  tweeted Friday. But as of Thursday more than 99 percent of the United States population live where there is a low or medium risk, according to Walensky. That said, she and other doctors caution to watch for changes in community risk levels. Doctors have recommended that if cases and hospitalizations rise, it would be prudent to resume mask wearing indoors.

On Friday Dr. Anthony Fauci told National Public Radio that the U.S. could follow the trend of the United Kingdom and see a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the BA.2 subvariant. Cases are still trending down across the United States, but some states are seeing a rise, he said.

“I think without a doubt that we are going to see a turnaround as people get out more and into the inside venues without masks,” Fauci said. “That’s going to be certainly resulting in infections, even in people who are vaccinated.” If community risk levels change and cases go up, “I for one will go back to masking indoors,” he said.

Since the pandemic has began, the Maine CDC has logged 237,717 cases. The death toll from COVID-19 now numbers at 2,222.

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