Five people have died from COVID-19 since Wednesday, and 436 new cases of COVID-19 were reported since yesterday, the state reported Friday, Dec. 18.

In Friday's media briefing, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said three of the dead were men in their 70s from Kennebec County; one was a man in his 80s from Kennebec County and was a woman in her 80s from York County. In all, 281 people have died from the disease since the pandemic began.

Shah said currently there are 177 people hospitalized across the state, with 46 in intensive care units and 15 on ventilators.

Waldo County has added 15 cases since Wednesday; the cumulative total now stands at 324. The county now has 108 active cases. Hospitalizations remained at 18, with 17 deaths reported.

Shah reported 14 new outbreak investigations Dec. 18, including six schools and one hospital. According to television station WABI in Bangor, 32 patients and staff at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor have tested positive for COVID-19, including five patients and 27 staff.

When asked about the outbreak at the hospital with all the specialized personal protective equipment being used, what that said about how effective it was, Shah said he did not know if PPE was used.The virus could possibly have been transmitted by people congregating outside of the hospital, he said.

"This shows how aggressive the virus is," Shah said.

Yesterday, Shah said, 2,264 people across the state received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna vaccine was recently reviewed by an advisory committee, which recommended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve the drug for emergency use. The first Moderna vaccines could be arriving in Maine as soon as next week, Shah said, along with the second allotment of the Pfizer vaccine.

Shah said the federal CDC informed his office that Maine would be receiving fewer doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the second week than anticipated. The state's allotment was reduced from 13,650 doses to 8,775, according to Shah, who said this would have "implications for us."

The partnership with pharmacies to service congregate care facilities may have to be pushed back a week until more doses are available, he said.

On a positive note, Shah said it was discovered that most Pfizer doses have extra vaccine in the vials, and that the FDA approved using the overage.

Shah referred to it as a "splendid holiday gift."

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