AUGUSTA — Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaking at a weekly media briefing Wednesday, Oct. 6, said 29 additional deaths were recorded throughout the state today. A man from Waldo County was one of two deaths reported Friday, Oct. 1.

The high number deaths comes on top of 10 deaths reported yesterday. Twenty-two of today’s deaths and eight of yesterday’s were from a periodic review of vital records, Shah noted. The deaths from vital records occurred between Sept. 11 and Sept. 29.

These deaths bring the total of people who have died from COVID-19 in Maine to 1,065. Yesterday, 836 new cases of the virus were reported. There are 166 people hospitalized with the disease; 51 are in ICUs and 21 are on ventilators. For comparison, Shah said, two weeks ago 226 people were in the hospital with 88 in ICUs, which was a record, along with 40 people on ventilators.

Shah said there are fewer than 100 cases the CDC still needs to review now, compared to a week ago, when the backlog was over 1,000 cases. “This backlog could return,” he said, “as it depends on the daily positive results that we receive every single day.”

Shah said the most important thing people can do to prevent the backlog from recurring is to get vaccinated and avoid coming into contact with those who may have COVID-19. Currently there are 60 intensive care beds available across the state.

“There are pockets of unvaccinated folks,” he said. “…Sadly, that is where the deaths are coming from.” He added community transmission is still driving the new cases, rather than outbreaks at facilities.

As of yesterday, two children under the age of 18 are in Maine hospitals with COVID-19, where in the past 30 days there have been at least four. Over the course of the pandemic, 34 children have been hospitalized.

Right now, he said, neither of the two children is in an ICU. In the last 30 days there have not been any children with COVID-19, but since the beggining of the pandemic, nine children have been in pediatric ICUs.

Yesterday Maine hit a milestone, Shah said, with 1 million people having received at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccination rate across the state has increased to 4,900 per day, “and rising,” Shah said. Shots being administered have doubled over the past two weeks, increasing by over 80% in the last seven days. It puts the state back at the level of vaccination occurring in Maine in mid-June.

Vaccination rates were strong to begin with, he said, but are up now compared to recent weeks. Breaking it down by first, second and booster shots, in the past seven days the state has been administering about 827 first doses per day and 1,344 second or final doses, up from 793 and 931 respectively, Shah said.

The real growth has been in booster shots, with 2,700 doses being administered every day, up from 1,050 a day a week ago. This number shows people are not having trouble obtaining boosters or additional doses, he said. This information also suggests booster shots are not crowding out access to first or second doses.

Shah said, “The bottom line is, vaccines remain available throughout the state, free of charge, and in most places, you don’t need an appointment right now.”

The U.S. Food and Drug administration has scheduled a variety of meetings on vaccine topics for October. On Oct. 14, the FDA advisory committee will meet to discuss scientific data on booster shots for the Moderna vaccine.

The next day, Oct. 15, the committee will meet to discuss booster shots for those who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The committee will also talk about the mix-and-match strategy, that is, whether those who got the Moderna vaccine to start can or should get a Pfizer booster and vice versa.

On Oct. 26 the committee will meet to discuss the Pfizer vaccine for children 5 to 11. “That is one of, if not the topic, that I know is top of mind for parents across the state,” Shah said.

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