LincolnHealth reported 74 new COVID-19 cases from 610 tests for the week of Nov. 8. The data makes for the highest positivity rate over a single week, 12.1%, and the second most cases since the start of the pandemic; the week of Sept. 13, LincolnHealth reported 83 cases. Breakthrough cases also reached a record high with 40 cases or 54% of cases.
Lincoln Medical Partners Medical Director of Infectious Diseases and Antimicrobial Stewardship Dr. Catherine Cavanaugh said it is “difficult to pinpoint” factors in the sudden rise in breakthroughs. However, people should keep in mind breakthrough cases are expected to happen, she said. “What matters is that vaccinated people are far less likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID or post-viral complications.”
LincolnHealth Communications Director John Martins said a spike in cases is not unique to Maine. New Hampshire has seen a 50% increase. Nationwide, cases are up 10%, with about half of the lower 48 states experiencing large spikes. Martins said the most notable data about Maine’s spike is the alarming increase of patients requiring hospitalization. On Nov. 12, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported a record 248 hospitalizations and with the exception of the following day which saw a slight dip in numbers, hospitalizations have steadily risen to new records, the highest so far being 280 on Nov. 17.
As a result, capacity issues continue to rage on in the MaineHealth system with many suspending noncritical surgeries due to a lack of inpatient beds, said Martins. Some surgeries at LincolnHealth are being rescheduled since most days the hospital is at capacity, though system-wide checks are helping triage the worst emergencies to the closest empty bed. Martins said LincolnHealth has on occasion taken patients from Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport and Midcoast Parkview Hospital in Brunswick.
LincolnHealth’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Timothy Fox said the capacity problems are due to the increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. “And the majority of people who are hospitalized are unvaccinated. This is making it extremely hard to access urgent and emergent care when it is needed. Emergency departments are routinely boarding critically ill patients for days at a time while waiting for precious inpatient beds to open up. If you are not vaccinated, please help us alleviate some of these pressures by getting the vaccine.”
Since last year’s holidays were marked by spikes, Fox recommended family gatherings stay small, all in attendance be vaccinated, frequent hand-washing and maintaining personal distance.
The first week of school vaccination clinics were a success, said Martins; 449 children ages 5-11 were vaccinated at eight clinics and a Saturday morning clinic at Watson Center on LincolnHealth’s Miles Campus.
“It was a whirlwind, full of hugs, stuffies, laughs, a few tears, proud moments and celebrations,” said Coulombe Center for Health Improvement Director Anni Pat McKenney. “So many people have made it possible, from those actually visiting schools to all the data entry, early morning draws in our pharmacy and those holding down the fort while staff are deployed to these clinics. What an amazing effort.”
Lincoln Medical Partners in Damariscotta is holding an ages 5-11 clinic Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving. Call 633-1934 to make an appointment. Said Martins, “We know that some parents want to be with their children (and vice-versa) when they get the vaccine, and this may offer them the opportunity to do so.”
Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson booster vaccines are available by appointment only at Watson Community Center. Those over 18 who had their second dose of Moderna or Pfizer six months ago or more are eligible for their booster. Those who had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a booster two months or more after having the single dose. Make an appointment at vaccine.mainehealth.org or by calling 1-877-780-7545 and have your COVID-19 vaccine information at hand.