Maine reports two more deaths due to COVID-19 on Tuesday and 354 new cases over a three-day period as pandemic conditions continue to improve.
The state report on Tuesday contains news cases from Saturday, Sunday and Monday because the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not update the count at the weekend.
The number of state-wide hospital admissions had not yet been updated on Tuesday. But the update on Monday continued a downward trend with 116 hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state, including 25 in critical care and seven in respirator.
Since the pandemic began two years ago, Maine has reported 232,647 cases of COVID-19 and 2,147 deaths.
Omicron continues to be the dominant strain of the virus discovered during surveillance tests, the Maine CDC reported Monday. All samples tested in March were omicron compared to 97 percent omicron in February, 95 percent in January and 17 percent in December.
In December, delta was the most prevalent strain with 83 percent of cases, but it was quickly overtaken by the more contagious but less severe omicron variant.
The most recent test round in March did not detect any cases of the omicron sub-variant BA.2, although it was discovered last month and is known to be present in Maine.
Although omicron BA.2 appears to be more contagious than the more widespread form of the variant, it is not expected to cause an even greater increase in the United States because vaccinations and natural immunity to previous infections still provide protection.
Meanwhile, more mask mandates are being lifted as pandemic conditions improve. The city of Portland-owned Merrill Auditorium, Portland Expo – home of the Maine Celtics basketball team – and Ocean Gateway switched to masking optional Monday, though evidence of vaccination or negative COVID-19 testing will still be required for admission.
Last week, the city of Portland lifted its mesh mandate for city buildings, such as City Hall, and in February, a carpet indoor mesh mandate ended for all public indoor venues.
This story will be updated.