The state saw another surge in COVID-19 cases Wednesday, Dec. 9, with 405 new people testing positive for the disease. On Monday the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 427 new cases.

In Wednesday's media briefing, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, described the last seven days as "extreme" in terms of the number of cases and deaths reported.

Today, he said, seven additional people have died from COVID-19. Five men and two women, ranging in age from 50 to 100, died from the disease. This on top of 12 deaths reported yesterday.

Two of the deaths were from Cumberland County, two were from Androscoggin County, two were from Hancock County, and one was from York County.

Currently, Shah said, 173 people are hospitalized, 42 are in intensive care units and 15 on ventilators. Statewide, he said, there are 84 ICU beds available with staff.

Waldo County has had nine additional cases since Monday's briefing, with a cumulative count of 271. Currently there are 56 active COVID-19 cases in the county, three more than Monday, and has seen 17 deaths overall.

Shah said the Maine CDC is "eagerly anticipating" the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine, but stressed it would not be like "a switch being turned off." Sustaining proper public health measures is still as important as ever for the success of the vaccine, he said.

"We all have a personal responsibility to slow down the pandemic," he said, by wearing a face mask and practicing physical distancing.

"The better we can do now," he said, the more successful the vaccine will be.

The plan is to vaccinate the most vulnerable people and the people who care for them first, he said. Hospitals, nursing home residents and first responders will all be in the first wave to receive vaccinations.

When asked about a previous statement he made about having 4,000 backlogged cases, Shah said, the virus is "spreading faster than we can investigate within a 24-hour window."

He called the backlog "completely unacceptable," and said anybody who can review test results at his agency is being asked to do so.

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