Watch briefing: Maine reports 202 new cases of COVID-19, 2 more deaths – Press Herald

Maine reported 202 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and two additional deaths.

The daily case rates have been relatively stable over the past five days, hovering around 200 cases per day. The seven-day average of daily new cases continues to decline, and was at 226 on Wednesday, compared to 270.1 a week ago and 451.6 a month ago.

Since the pandemic began, there have been 66,315 cases of COVID-19 and 807 deaths.

Androscoggin County, a recent hotspot for COVID-19 in Maine, had the most cases on Wednesday with 40, followed by 31 in Kennebec County. Cumberland County – the state’s most populous and with nearly triple Androscoggin’s population – had 30 cases, while York County logged 17 cases.

The vaccination program continues, although at a slower pace. Through Wednesday, 680,332 people in Maine have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, representing 50.6 percent of the state’s 1.3 million population. Also, 646,338 people, or 48.08 percent of the state population, have received their final dose.

MaineHealth, which is operating numerous vaccine clinics throughout the state, announced that it will be closing its Scarborough Downs mass vaccination clinic on Thursday to focus on other ways to reach unvaccinated populations that include younger adults and adolescents.

Scarborough Downs has vaccinated 87,000 Maine people at its site since it opened in early February.

Maine is tops in the nation for the percentage of its population that is fully vaccinated, according to the Bloomberg  vaccine tracker, followed by New England states Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Other vaccine trackers may give different results because they use other population figures, but all generally place Maine and other New England states at the top for vaccination rates.

On Wednesday, 107 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Maine, including 43 in critical care.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, briefed the media today.

A small-scale drive-thru vaccination clinic was held at Wiscasset Family Medicine in April. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

One of the big challenges to getting more people inoculated is persuading younger people to get the vaccine.

Among residents 50 or older, 79 percent have had either a first dose of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a dose of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson option, according to data from the Maine CDC. That’s at or above the threshold needed for herd immunity and a positive sign because older individuals have been at the highest risk of serious illness or death.

But among those 16 to 49, the vaccination rate drops to just 51 percent. Furthermore, the rate decreases steadily from those in their 40s (57 percent) to those in their 30s (53 percent) to those in their 20s (46 percent). Younger people have been driving new virus transmission now that most older residents are protected.

Maine public health experts say the lower rates among younger residents reflect a reduced sense of urgency about vaccination, compared with the older Mainers and health care workers who were first in line for shots.

This story will be updated.

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