AUGUSTA — With about two weeks remaining before the Oct. 29 deadline for health care workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew of the Department of Health and Human Services said the vaccination rate among this sector of the workforce have risen rapidly.

Speaking at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention briefing Wednesday, Oct. 13, media briefing, Lambrew said during September the rate climbed above 90% for hospital staff and ambulatory surgical centers in the state. The rate also rose in nursing homes from 77.2% to 85.8% of staff fully vaccinated.

By comparison, 80% of all Maine adults were fully vaccinated as of Oct. 12, she said; the national average is 67.8%.

“We have had over 300 outbreaks in health care facilities as well as seen thousands of health care workers test positive for this dangerous and highly transmissible disease… As a senior clinician said in Maine, it is the virus, not the vaccination, that is causing the stress in our hospitals and facilities.”

When asked if there would be disruptions because of workers leaving the field as a result of the mandate, Lambrew said she did not anticipate any widespread service disruption across the state. “It is possible to fully vaccinate health care workers against a critical disease and not have staff shortages,” she said.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said his agency recorded seven additional COVID-19 deaths Wednesday. One was a resident of Cumberland County, one was from Kennebec County, two were from Penobscot County, two were from Somerset County and one was from York County. Three were in their 70s and four were in their 80s. According to Shah, three were women and four were men.

This brings the total number of COVID-19 related deaths to 1,083. statewide, he said, adding that 893 cases have been reported since the weekend. At this time, 168 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, up from 166 a week ago. Sixty people are in intensive care units with the virus, compared to 51 a week ago, and 29 are currently on ventilators, up from 21 a week ago. Throughout the state, 42 critical care beds remain available.

Shah said the state is administering 4,008 total doses of vaccine per day, an increase of 48% over the past two weeks. Of this total, 825 first doses are being given per day, up from 739 over the past 13 days. Second doses have climbed from 577 doses given daily two weeks ago to 1,241 shots being given now. And third or booster shots are now at 2,470 shots per day.

The entire state of Maine is now 69.1% fully vaccinated, and 75%, or three out of four people in the state, have now received their first dose. Among adults 18 and over, 80% are fully vaccinated, while 86.5% have had their first dose. For Mainers 65 and older, 93.8% are fully vaccinate,d with 99.9% having had at least their first COVID-19 shot.

When asked about the recent announcement that the U.S. border will open in early November, allowing non-essential travelers from Canada into the state, Shah said no specific date had yet been set. All visitors from Canada will be required to be vaccinated, he said, which greatly reduces the likelihood of transmission.

Because of the high vaccination rates in Maine and Canada, Shah felt opening the border to travelers could be done safely.

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