AUGUSTA — Gov. Janet Mills told people Wednesday, Sept. 22, get vaccinated, mask up and take the pandemic seriously.

At a weekly media briefing with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Mills told people who believe they do not need to be vaccinated because chances of getting COVID-19 are low “the data dispels that notion.”

“It can happen to you,” she added. “Please just get vaccinated.”

The majority of people in hospitals and intensive care units for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, she said. Making matters worse, people seeking emergency treatment may have to wait, if no suitable bed is available.

There are now 226 people in the hospital with the virus, of whom 88 are in ICU’s and 40 are on ventilators.

Speaking on the directive for health care workers to be vaccinated by Oct. 31, Mills said Millinocket Regional Hospital is the first in the state to announce that 100% of its staff is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. “I hope health care professionals that haven’t been vaccinated follow their lead,” she said.

Shifting to schools, Mills said the recent teacher survey on vaccination rates shows 76% of school staff in Maine are fully vaccinated, though some schools are as low as 20%. The vast majority of schools in the state, she said, have adopted universal masking policies.

Last week the Maine Department of Education reported 1,390 COVID-19 cases and 52 outbreaks at Maine schools, she noted.

“We are not powerless,” Mills said, adding that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that masks should be worn in inside school settings. “It is my firm expectation that every school in Maine will follow that advice.”

“Every school should require masks, period,” she said. “Every school staff, including teachers, bus drivers, custodians, secretaries and aides should be vaccinated.”

Mills went on to say parents should get kids 12 and over vaccinated “right now. If you are taking care of Maine kids and are choosing not gto et vaccinated,” she said, “you’re saying you are more important than the children in your care.”

“Get a vaccination, not because you have to,” she said, “but because it’s the right thing to do.”

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said the state had reached a milestone now with 1,007 people who have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Five additional deaths were reported today. One was a resident of Androscoggin County, one was from Aroostook County and three were from Penobscot County. One was a woman and the rest were men. One person was in their 40s, one was in their 50s, and one was in their 70s; two were in their 80s. Shah said that four out of the five deaths were a result of the Maine CDC review of death records from Sept. 7 through 12.

Shah said there are currently 46 available ICU beds out of a total of 342 statewide. On a positive note, he said, the seven-day average positivity rate was down to 4.45% from 6.06% one week ago. Regarding vaccination rates, 2,400 doses are being administered daily, he said, which represents a 20% increase in the last 14 days.

Shah said he has heard many people say they are healthy, and that the virus will not affect them. “Are you really healthy?” he asked. Being overweight or having high blood pressure will put these people at a higher risk, he said.

Ninety percent of people with COVID-19 who are now in ICU beds, Shah said, are not fully vaccinated. He said these people usually wait to go to the hospital, and are sicker and require ICU care.

Currently 73% of Mainers have received at least one COVID-19 dose, he said, and two out of three are fully vaccinated. Among people 65 and older, 93% are fully vaccinated; 98% of those over 65 have received at least one dose.

Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said 85% of hospital staff and 72% of nursing facility staff are now vaccinated the requirement for health care workers to get the shots was announced Aug. 31.