Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

COVID-19 hospitalizations at Bangor’s Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center have come down by more than a quarter from their peak a week ago, even as the state has set a new record for coronavirus hospitalizations

There were 40 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at EMMC on Thursday, according to data released by Northern Light Health. That number has dropped nearly every day since it peaked at 55 on Dec. 31

Northern Light reported 55 coronavirus patients at its 10 hospitals across the state as of Thursday, which was also down by more than a quarter from the week before.

Hospital officials said this week they are continuing to prepare for a post-Christmas wave of the virus similar to the rise in cases and hospitalizations that occurred in the weeks after Mainers gathered with others for Thanksgiving

Health officials reported another 535 COVID-19 cases across Maine on Thursday, along with 13 new deaths. The seven-day average of new virus cases surpassed 500 for the first time this week, though it dropped to 490 on Thursday. Hospital numbers tend to lag behind case counts, suggesting that a higher infection rate in the first week of January could drive up hospitalizations in the coming weeks.

Despite a steady number of new COVID-19 hospitalizations, Northern Light hospitals are not at risk of running out of ICU beds, Northern Light Senior Physician Executive Dr. James Jarvis said Wednesday.

The larger challenge has been finding enough staff to treat COVID-19 patients who require constant high-level care, sometimes including ventilator support, Jarvis said. The hospital last month also dealt with its own coronavirus outbreak that had infected at least 48 staff and patients in a surgical post-operative unit.

“We continue to be able to meet the capacity for patients positive for COVID-19, as well as anybody else who requires acute care,” Jarvis said.

COVID-19 cases at EMMC made up nearly three-quarters of those at all 10 Northern Light Health hospitals as of Thursday. Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland was second, with seven coronavirus patients, while Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital in Presque Isle had four hospitalized.