AUGUSTA — In response to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases, Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday, Dec. 8, she is activating 75 Maine National Guard troops to aid hospitals in non-clinical roles.

The Guard will provide support to nursing facilities and swing bed units that accept patients discharged from hospitals and also administer monoclonal antibodies to prevent COVID-19 patients from becoming critically ill.

Mills said the locations will be determined in the coming days in collaboration with the leadership of Maine’s health care systems and she expects troops to be deployed through January 2022.

Federal surge response teams were also requested, Mills said, and if approved, would supplement hospital crews and alleviate the strain on the health care system.

“I don’t take these actions lightly,” she said. “We are at a tipping point. I hope this is a wake-up call to get vaccinated.”

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said 1,275 new COVID-19 cases were reported since yesterday, along with eight more virus-related deaths. 

One was a resident of Androscoggin County, one was from Hancock County, four were from Kennebec County, one was from Somerset County and one was from Washington County. Two were women and six were men. Two were in their 50s, two were in their 60s and four were in their 70s.

With the recent surge, Shah said, more positive test results are coming in than can be processed, leading the agency to hire more staff.

The seven-day positivity rate average dipped to 10.8% from 11.6% last Wednesday, and as of today, 73% of the entire population of Maine is fully vaccinated, with 83% having received at least their first dose. Of those 18 and older, 34% have received a booster shot.

At present, 379 people are in the hospital with COVID-19, including seven children and three in pediatric ICUs. The median age of people in hospitals across the state has been falling Shah said, which he attributed people who are unvaccinated. Of the 379 hospitalized, 117 are in  ICUs and 60 are on ventilators.

“The pandemic is at its peak,” Shah said, adding that he expects the number of cases to stay at current elevated levels or increase. “The virus is circulating at levels we have not seen before.”

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