Maine will see COVID-19 cases drop after the holidays, but that doesn’t mean transmission won’t work anymore – Community News
Covid-19

Maine will see COVID-19 cases drop after the holidays, but that doesn’t mean transmission won’t work anymore

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s COVID-19 cases are likely to plummet in the coming days due to an expected decline in testing over the holidays, but there’s little reason to expect a real decline in infections as more people travel and congregate.

The infection level has reached new highs in recent weeks, with a seven-day average of new daily cases of nearly 700. A record 314 patients with the virus were hospitalized on Wednesday. Hospitals in western Maine — the least vaccinated part of the state — have reached capacity.

The increase comes before the Thanksgiving holiday, which is likely to lead to a temporary drop in the number of reported cases. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not report case numbers for weekends or holidays. Most testing sites are also closed for holidays, leading to fewer cases for the state to report in the days after, and people who are regularly tested for COVID-19 at school or work may not be tested while on vacation or visit family.

Maine has seen this before. As we entered Thanksgiving last year, virus cases steadily increased, although they were much lower than they are now. But the cases seemed to decrease right after the holidays before steadily increasing again in the weeks that followed. A similar trend occurred between Christmas and New Years last year, and again a few months ago around Labor Day.

While reported cases often decline around the holiday season, travel and family gatherings pose increased COVID-19 risks, particularly for unvaccinated people, said Dr. Robert Horsburgh, a professor of epidemiology at Boston University. For that reason, epidemiologists expect the infection rate to rise in the coming weeks, both in Maine and the US

But Horsburgh said vaccinations and testing of unvaccinated people could help reduce transmission of the virus during the holidays.

“We will undoubtedly have a bump in cases, it’s inevitable,” he said, “but we want to minimize it.”