Maine is at a critical point in the pandemic, according to hospital leaders from Northern Light Health, MaineHealth, Central Maine Healthcare and MaineGeneral Health. 

At a media briefing Aug. 26, health care officials from all corners of the state urged people to continue masking, hand washing and physical distancing, and most importantly, to get vaccinated.

The two strongest points made by every official at the meeting concerned shortages of critical care beds and staff.

Chief Medical Officer for MaineHealth Dr. Jean Boomsma said her hospital is losing staff because they are becoming infected with COVID-19, which she said reinforces the need to be vaccinated. “All of our ICU cases are unvaccinated,” she said, adding that “breakthrough cases make up only a small percentage” of current COVID patients.

The surge, she said, is being driven by pockets of unvaccinated people across the state.

Because of the lack of critical care beds, Boomsma said, some patients have been put in the emergency room, which results in the cancellation or postponement of other important procedures.

Dr. Steven Diaz, emergency medicine physician and MaineGeneral Health’s chief medical officer, said his hospital is full and even if big venues such as the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor were to be used to house critical care beds, it still would not solve the staffing problem.

Given the more infectious nature of the delta variant, Diaz said, the herd immunity theory does not work. “The host that is needed for the coronavirus to continue this evolution is the human host,” he said. “The way to stop this evolution from occurring is to be vaccinated.”

Asked how close she was to running out of room, Boomsma said, “We are very close and we don’t have a lot of tricks up our sleeve… . There’s not a lot more we can do to make room in our hospitals.

“This is putting a huge strain on our hospitals to provide service for COVID or non-COVID needs.”

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