AUGUSTA — Seven more Mainers have died from COVID-19 — one of whom is from Waldo County.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday, Sept. 15, six were men and one was a woman. Besides the one person from Waldo County, two were from Hancock, one from Kennebec, one from Knox, and two from Penobscot County. Two were in their 50s, three were in their 60s and two were in their 70s.

These latest deaths bring the cumulative state total to 976 people who have died from the virus since the pandemic began. 

Since yesterday 778 new COVID-19 cases have been logged. As Shah said previously, these do not necessarily represent cases in a 24-hour period, but rather, cases verified by the Maine CDC within that time. Currently there are 2,900 cases awaiting review by the agency.

There are 192 people hospitalized with the disease across the state, 70 in intensive care units and 42 on ventilators. Shah noted that this is the highest number of people on ventilators ever recorded in the state.

Speaking about how the virus has affected younger people, Shah said right now two children are hospitalized with COVID-19; five have been hospitalized in the past 30 days, along with one child admitted to intensive care. Since the pandemic began, nine children have been admitted to intensive care units, he said.

The current positivity rate climbed to 6.06%, the highest since Jan. 9. Two out of three people in the state are now fully vaccinated, according to Shah. This represents 900,614 people. Of that number, 2,258 have experienced “breakthrough” cases. This means 99.75% of all the people who are fully vaccinated have not experienced breakthrough cases.

When asked about boosters, Shah said the focus remains on first doses. “The primary vaccine will be the way we find ourselves out of the COVID-19 tunnel,” he said. “The risk from COVID-19 far outweighs the risk of the vaccines.”

Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew of the Department Health and Human Services announced a new online dashboard that show school staff vaccination rates across the state (tinyurl.com/3vawmn4k). On average, she said, 76% of all school staff across the state are fully vaccinated. Lambrew drew a comparison between Cumberland County with 89% fully vaccinated staff, and Waldo County with only 61% of staff fully vaccinated.

She said she hopes publishing staff vaccination rates will encourage more school staff to get the shots. “We’re always working to get as close to 100% as possible,” she said.

The current surge in school cases, Shah said, is a function of community transmission. “Kids are coming to school with COVID-19 from their summer activities,” he said. 

Previously Shah said there was a shortage of the BinaxNow rapid testing kits that are used in school pool testing programs across the state. The shortage of testing kits, he said, has not affected school participation in pool testing.

Schools’ participation in the pool testing program is “not as high as it could be,” he said. It remains an effective way to see what is going on. “It’s a sample that we can extrapolate,” he said. The 20% to 30% participation rate, he said, does not render it unsuccessful.

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