The number of hospitalized patients infected with COVID-19 fell slightly on Monday, but remains at an almost record level as hospitals await the arrival of Maine Army National Guard members later this week.
The number of hospitalized patients infected with the virus dropped to 406 from 415 on Sunday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these patients, 107 were on intensive care and 55 were on respirator. On Sunday, 109 patients were on intensive care, and 56 breathed with the help of ventilators.
The CDC did not update case numbers Monday because the testing of positive tests was put on hold over the weekend and on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
People infected with the highly contagious omicron variant have filled hospitals in Maine and nationwide in recent weeks. Although it often causes less severe symptoms than previous strains of the virus, the variant is far more transmissible, leading to an overall increase in the number of people in need of hospital treatment.
Omicron infects more people who are fully vaccinated than previous strains, but those who are sick enough to seek hospital treatment are predominantly people who were not vaccinated, according to hospital and state officials.
Hospitals in Maine have taken care of more than double the number of COVID-19 patients admitted when the increase was at its peak last winter. At the same time, they are struggling with severe staff shortages because infected or vulnerable frontline workers are short of work.
The Maine Army National Guard will deploy 169 Guard members to 16 hospitals and health facilities across the state from Thursday. These guard members, in addition to nearly 40 others, were deployed to help hospitals last month.
Guard members will assist in non-clinical support roles to allow medical staff to focus on the number of patients.
In addition, the federal government has sent federal ambulance teams and is sending another surge emergency team of medical personnel to Maine in the coming days.
While hospitals across the country are making efforts to care for the sick, there are some signs that the omicron wave may be passing faster than previous increases.
Cases have begun to decline in New York, and testing of wastewater in Boston has shown a dramatic drop in the incidence of the virus, suggesting that the pace of new infections has passed its peak.
Although there is no widespread testing of wastewater in Maine, a similar drop in virus levels was detected last week in wastewater tested by the city of Yarmouth. Because omicron has first spread to more populated southern and coastal communities, Yarmouth may see a decline, although the rise continues elsewhere in the state.
How we navigate omicron