Maine reported 1,198 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and four more deaths as additional omicron subvariants have been discovered in the state.
The seven days the average of daily new cases has more than tripled in the last month, goes from 199.3 on April 1 to 638.1 on Tuesday.
Hospital admissions also rose again Tuesday to a total of 162 patients across the country, a 60 percent increase in two weeks.
The increase in cases in Maine is similar to what is happening in other states in the Northeast, where the omicron subvariant BA.2 and other new subvariants are driving up the infection rate. New, more infectious strains of the omicron BA.2 subvariant have spread through the region and into Maine, data show.
“We are receiving more and more positive test results every day, reflecting increased transmission,” Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said in a statement. ““ Screening of wastewater and hospitalizations also indicates that we are in a period of increased transmission, which is consistent with what other jurisdictions saw with the omicron subvariants.
The number of cases has increased most dramatically in the Northeast, with the more contagious BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 omicron subvariants feeding on increases, particularly in New York. These are closely related to the omicron BA.2 subvariant and, like BA.2, are highly transmissible but less likely to cause serious illness than previous versions of coronavirus.
The most recent genomic sequencing report in Maine, published April 25 by the Maine CDC, shows that the BA.2.12.1 omicron subvariant and other subvariants accounted for about 30 percent of the samples tested, with BA.2 representing about 50 percent and original BA .1 omicron variant about 20 percent of the samples.
The US CDC says that BA.2.12.1 is about 25 percent more transferable than BA.2.
Patients with covid-19 hospital admissions increased from 150 Monday to 162 Tuesday, with 30 in critical care and three in respirator. Admissions are still well below the peak on January 13 at 436.
About 67 percent of patients admitted with COVID-19 since vaccines became readily available last year have been unvaccinated. While vaccines continue to protect against serious illness in most cases, this percentage has decreased because the number of people lacking immunity from either vaccination or a previous infection has decreased.
Among new hospital admissions reported to the state from 16-26. April, for whom vaccination status was noted, 55 percent were unvaccinated and 45 percent vaccinated.
On Monday, MaineHealth reported that 44 of its 57 current COVID-19 hospital patients have been vaccinated. MaineHealth is the parent organization of Maine Medical Center in Portland and seven other Maine hospitals.
Public health officials say the higher percentage of vaccinated COVID patients admitted does not mean the vaccines are less effective. It simply reflects that the number of unvaccinated Maine residents who have not been infected is now a smaller percentage of the state’s population than it was last spring and summer.
About 75 percent of Maine’s residents are now fully vaccinated, and 90 percent of people age 60 and older, the population most likely to need hospitalization.
Vaccinated patients requiring hospitalization tend to be older adults with weakened immune systems related to other conditions. Health authorities continue to recommend that people in these groups get an extra booster shot to maximize their immunity.
Also, many Maine residents who have not been vaccinated have already received COVID-19 and have some natural immunity. The U.S. CDC reported last week that about 35 percent of Maine’s population has contracted COVID-19 at a time during the pandemic, where most of the infections have occurred since September 2021.
Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 247,069 cases of COVID-19 and 2,291 deaths.