COVID-19 hospital admissions fell at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick last week, following a state-wide trend suggesting the omicron wave of the virus may subside.
As of Friday, eight inpatients were treated for COVID-19 at Mid Coast Hospital. Of those, four were on intensive care and one was on a respirator. In comparison, the hospital treated 25 inpatients for COVID-19 at the peak of the increase in January and has not seen the current level of admissions since October 2021.
“We are in a much better position through this week than we have been in the last four to five weeks,” said Mid Coast Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Bowe Friday.
For the hospital, Bowe said, this means services that were temporarily on hold have been reinstated, such as selected visiting hours as well as non-emissive procedures for patients who would need a night bed.
“The most important thing for hospital staff and surgeries is that we have had fewer people sick from COVID from our staff,” Bowe said. “At the same time, we had increasing patient numbers, we had an increasing number of infections among our staff because it was going through the community.”
Across the country, the Portland Press Herald reported it COVID-19 admissions dropped to below 300 for the first time since before Thanksgiving on Friday. In addition, the number of daily positive test results received by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has nearly halved.
Mid Coast Hospital is a facility with 93 beds. As of Friday, nine out of the 11 beds in the intensive care unit and 53 out of the 54 general surgical beds were occupied. While the hospital still encounters capacity, it is more manageable as many of the beds are occupied by patients admitted on a more predictable time frame, according to Bowe.
“I think our community should be very proud that we’ve reached this point together,” Bowe said. “I think people can take a deep breath and a deep breath out now, but I do not think we are necessarily done with this – there is always potential for another variant.”
Like other healthcare systems nationwide, staff continue to be a challenge at Mid-Coast Parkview Health. The organization employs 2,188 people and had 137 vacancies as of Friday. In January, 19 members of the Maine National Guard were deployed to the hospital through February 23 to support staff through non-clinical roles.
Mid Coast Hospital continues to encourage vaccination to minimize the spread and severity of COVID-19 infections.
Brunswick COVID-19 Wastewater Test
As a new tool for monitoring COVID-19 levels in Maine communities, the Maine CDC launched a wastewater testing program in January. Over 20 municipalities were selected for the program, including Brunswick.
According to Michael Abbott and Dena Bushman, both experts from the Maine CDC who lead the Wastewater Screening Initiative, the program will serve as an early warning system that helps predict virus increases in a community.
“Results from sewage tests are available several days after flushing and about four to six days before COVID-19 cases are confirmed through patient tests and can help the Maine CDC and communities like Brunswick tailor public health messages and direct health resources,” Abbed and Bushman said.
As of Friday, three samples from Brunswick had been reported. These results indicated a declining level of COVID-19 in the city, with the normalized virus concentration going from 1.09 million on 27 January to 645,752 on 3 February.
Brunswick will continue to collect samples twice a week. The Maine CDC estimates that approx. 88% of Brunswick residents are vaccinated, compared to the nationwide average of 76%. The agency reports that 1,824 Mainers have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.
COVID-19 in the Brunswick School Department
Cases of COVID-19 in schools in Maine are also reportedly declining for the first time since returning from vacation. In the Brunswick School Department, 56 active cases of COVID-19 were reported as of Friday.
“We are pleased to report that case trends in Brunswick schools are declining,” Superintendent Phil Potenziano wrote in a newsletter. “After a maximum of 118 cases in the week of January 14, we are down to 36 in the week of February 7.”
A total of 652 cases of COVID-19 had been reported within Brunswick schools. Potenziano added that the district expects new guidance from the Maine Department of Education, which will make it possible to roll back some health and safety protocols.
“Our health team is also monitoring our situation and identifying measurements to help determine which protocols can be relaxed at what point in time,” Potenzaino wrote.