ELLSWORTH — The COVID-19 landscape is complex and continues to complicate everyday life as trends in case rates, transmission and hospitalizations remain high in Hancock County. Positive cases in the county for the last seven days ending Oct. 4 stood at 236, a 37.21 percent jump from the previous seven days — and the highest since the pandemic began.
Northern Light Health Systems Dr. James Jarvis said the entire state of Maine is seeing a high transmission of COVID-10 cases.
However, he also noted that “positivity and hospitalization rates across Northern Light facilities “are starting to trend downward.”
Currently, Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital has one COVID-19 patient, as does Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital.
And with flu season also upon us, Jarvis urged residents to get vaccinated against both flu and COVID-19.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in the overall need for health care of late,” Jarvis said. “Overall demand has increased.”
Both influenza and COVID-19 are respiratory diseases with similar symptoms and spread in similar ways, Jarvis said, and both have the severest effect on the same high-risk groups. “We’re very concerned about the upcoming flu season,” he said, as a mild season” is usually followed by a bad one.”
But treatments differ for COVID-19 and the flu, so getting tested is important for people experiencing flu or COVID-19 symptoms, Jarvis said, adding that “the [COVID-19] vaccine doesn’t protect against other diseases.”
“Our emergency rooms across the state of Maine are extremely busy,” Jarvis said, with “some” visits due to COVID.”
Jarvis spoke at a Northern Light Health Systems briefing on Oct. 6. He noted 38 people with COVID-19 are being cared for in its hospital system.
Locally, there is one COVID-19 patient each at Northern Light Maine Coast and Blue Hill hospitals.
“While the needs for intensive-care-unit beds in our hospital fluctuate, our focus remains on accommodating our patients’ needs, including maintaining space for their care,” Kelley Columber, Communications Director of Maine Coast and Blue Hill hospitals said. “Northern Light Blue Hill and Maine Coast hospitals work together to meet the current healthcare demands and continue to work with our partners and state officials to monitor this situation regularly.”
To date, 47 people have died in Hancock County from COVID-19-related illnesses and 62 have been hospitalized of the 2,425 reported cases since the pandemic began 18 months ago.
For residents who chose to be vaccinated against COVID-19, booster shots are recommended for people 65 and above, or with underlying conditions, or jobs that are high-risk for COVID-19 transmission. Currently, only Pfizer vaccine is approved for booster shots, so people who initially received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines must wait until boosters are approved for those vaccines or a “mix-and-match” vaccine approach is approved. Additionally, booster shots are not approved for those under the age of 18.
Vaccinations have proved to show an extremely high rate of preventing serious illness or death from COVID-19, medical and immunology experts have said for months. “Most individuals who are vaccinated and need hospitalization, especially critical care, have some underlying medical condition,” Jarvis said, adding, “When we look at our unvaccinated population, they are becoming a younger, healthier crowd that is requiring hospitalization. That’s been the case for several months.”
Maine CDC reports 66.57 percent of Hancock County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccines for ages five to 12 years of age are still waiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but Jarvis said this could come soon. Pfizer has submitted the required data and an advisory committee will meet this month, Jarvis said.
“We do expect we’ll hear some significant information on or around Halloween,” he said. “Whether or not it says it will give the go ahead…remains to be seen.”