Originally published in Castine Patriot, September 16, 2021 and Island Ad-Vantages, September 16, 2021 and The Weekly Packet, September 16, 2021
Delta variant causing COVID-19 surge
Unvaccinated individuals filling hospitals
by Leslie Landrigan
New cases of COVID-19 are rising across the state and in Hancock County, with a three-day average of new statewide cases at 444.1 on September 14, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That’s up from a three-day average of 359 a week earlier and 173.7 a month ago.
“We are in a deeply concerning phase [of the pandemic],” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine’s CDC, in a virtual news conference on September 8.
The new cases result from a contagious strain of the virus called the Delta variant.
“We’re getting to a point where either you get the shot or you get the Delta variant,” Shah said.
According to the Maine CDC, 60.5 percent of the total population has gotten at least one shot. Still, that leaves more than a third of Maine residents unvaccinated.
Vaccinations against COVID-19 aren’t 100 percent effective, but they do help prevent hospitalizations and serious symptoms from developing, say health officials.
People who aren’t vaccinated make up the bulk of COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to the Maine CDC.
As of September 13, 2021, there were 194 hospital patients with COVID-19. Of those, 67 were in critical care, mostly unvaccinated, and 40 were on ventilators, all unvaccinated.
Shah warned the new COVID-19 cases are taxing Maine’s health care system.
“COVID units and ICUs are filled with unvaccinated people,” Shah said. “Health care workers are burning from both ends.”
Because of the surge in COVID-19 cases, Northern Light Blue Hill and Maine Coast hospitals on September 13 closed to visitors except for end-of-life, obstetrics, pediatric and emergency cases.
The two hospitals also changed the way they test for COVID-19. On September 10, Maine Coast Hospital reopened its testing building in the parking lot across from the hospital at 50 Union Street. It’s open mornings, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Blue Hill Hospital is using the testing building on its campus in the afternoons, Monday through Friday, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
According to a Northern Light press release, people with symptoms, or who have been exposed to someone with symptoms, can get tested. Appointments are necessary and staff will not swab patients. People will have to administer a self-swab test, and parents will need to swab their children. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit northernlighthealth.org/Resources/COVID-19 or call 844-489-1822 for Maine Coast Hospital and 374-2311 for Blue Hill Hospital.