The state reported 25 more deaths among people with COVID-19 in an update released Thursday.
Some of these deaths may have occurred in previous weeks, as government officials periodically review records to identify cases where the virus caused or contributed to a death. The update on Thursday brings the total number of Maine people who died during the pandemic to 1,883.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention continues to process a massive replenishment of cases and on Thursday added 3,784 confirmed cases to the pandemic.
These cases were reported to the state as positive tests over the past many weeks, but were not treated immediately because the Maine CDC has been overwhelmed during the omicron rise. The state has now streamlined the review process and is using a partially automated system to clear the backlog. The dramatic increase in confirmed cases in recent days does not reflect an actual increase in infections.
Real-time indicators all continue to point to a decline in infections and diseases. Based on sewage tests, hospitalizations, and other measurements, pandemic endurance has steadily improved over the past many weeks, both in Maine and nationwide.
The number of COVID-19 patients in Maine hospitals dropped to 249 on Wednesday, a 43 percent drop from the 436 January 13 pandemic. It was the first time in three months that total admissions had dropped to less than 250 patients in Maine. Updated admissions had not yet been announced Thursday morning.
Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Nirav Shah, said this week that the steady decline in hospital admissions, combined with other measurements showing that transmission is declining, has prompted state health officials to think more seriously about updating masking recommendations for public schools.
“We are not there yet,” he said during a media briefing on Wednesday. “The trends are encouraging and favorable, but what we are looking for now is continued stability. Omicron’s ball trains are slowing down, but it is not time to let go of the brakes.”
Shah said the plan is to wait until after the school holidays in February, which is next week, before meeting again to consider new masking instructions.
To help limit the potential spread of the virus after the school holidays, the Mills administration also announced Wednesday that it is opening up eligibility for free tests to all residents.
Last month, Maine joined five other states in a pilot program funded by The Rockefeller Foundation to send five free rapid tests to 25,000 households in certain communities that were considered understaffed. That program was open to everyone from Wednesday. Residents can visit the Project ACT Web site, AccessCovidTests.org, to place an order. No payment information is required and the tests will be delivered through Amazon approximately one week after ordering.
This story will be updated.