The number of patients admitted with COVID-19 in Maine continues to decline, the state said Saturday, even as it announced 50 previously unreported deaths from the infectious disease in January.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said 231 patients were admitted with the virus nationwide on Saturday, down from 245 on Friday.
Of the 231 inpatients, 63 were in critical care and 23 in ventilators, according to the public health agency.
These figures represent a dramatic drop from just last month. On January 13, there were 436 patients admitted with COVID-19, a pandemic height.
Also on Saturday, Maine added 4,011 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the pandemic as health officials work to clear up a backlog of positive tests submitted in recent weeks. Maine is using a new partially automated system to sort in the backlog. Before the process was automated, staff members at the Maine CDC were overwhelmed with cases during the omicron wave and could not process the test results fast enough to prevent the backlog.
Deaths, hospitalizations and wastewater screening data remain the best measures to determine the impact of COVID-19, the state has said. Also, the Maine CDC received 244 positive cases on Thursday, far from January 12, when it received 3,400 positive tests.
But the death toll from coronavirus in Maine continues to rise.
The Maine CDC reported another 50 deaths as part of a vital medical record review, Robert Long, communications director for the Department of Health and Human Services, said Saturday. “These deaths occurred between January 9, 2022 and January 22, 2022,” Long said in a news release. “The Maine CDC expresses sympathy with their loved ones and communities.”
Since the pandemic began, 1,960 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, according to the Maine CDC.
A number of states and cities have dropped indoor, public mask mandates. Portland, Bath and Freeport completed their indoor, public mask mandates, while other municipalities, including Brunswick and South Portland, are reviewing theirs.
At his weekly briefing on Wednesday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah that the steady decline in hospital admissions, combined with other measurements showing that transmission is declining, has prompted state health officials to consider updating masking recommendations for public schools. But he warned: “We are not there yet.”
“The trends are encouraging and favorable, but what we’re looking for now is continued stability. Omicron’s ball trains are slowing down, but it’s not time to let go of the brakes,” Shah said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend wearing masks in indoor, public spaces, as most of the country has high transmission rates. The American CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said this week that updated recommendations on masking are likely to come soon, but she did not set a timeline. National news reports suggested the new guidelines would be announced next week.
Dr. Dora Mills, head of health improvement at MaineHealth, said the omicron rise is smoldering, and at the national level, hospitals are working hard to catch up with the huge backlog of patients to be operated on, with continued increases in patients with underlying chronic diseases.
With the long pandemic, Mills recommends people “do what gives you joy, including gathering with their loved ones if you are fully vaccinated and boosted,” she said on her Facebook page. Mills said she will continue to wear a mask in public spaces, as well as when she is indoors with people who are not in her household, as the transmission speed is high.