Alice Goshorn, 78, of South Portland rolls down her sleeve after getting a COVID-19 vaccination at the former Scarborough Downs horse racing track on Wednesday. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Good morning from Augusta. Tom Brady is still good. Here’s your soundtrack.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “People’s lives were turned upside down, and they were confused about where to go to get help,” Matt DeLaney, executive director of the Millinocket Public Library, said of a regional effort, based at the library, to provide transportation to those in need during the pandemic. “We tried to build a network where we could respond to all those various needs out in the community.”

What we’re watching today

More Mainers aged 70 and older are getting vaccinated, leaving the question of what effects that could have for the state in the coming months. In Maine, 41,000 people have tested positive for the virus since last March. But one study by researchers at Columbia University suggested that up to 180,000 Mainers — or 14 percent — may have contracted the virus over that period, NPR reported. Official numbers have always been seen by experts as low due to testing shortfalls, particularly in the early going.

As of Sunday, more than 142,000 Mainers had received the first dose of the vaccine, while nearly 53,000 had received second doses. Early rates vary substantially by county, with Aroostook County leading the way, though supply constraints remain a problem everywhere.

Early trials suggest the full effect of the vaccine does not kick in until perhaps two weeks after the second dose, so only 23,000 Mainers might be considered fully immune at this point. People who have already had the virus may have some immunity — although some have gotten the virus twice and scientists say the vaccine likely provides better protection.

Maine remains among the lowest states in terms of overall infections since the start of the pandemic under the Columbia model, with any immunity from people who have contracted the virus unlikely to have a serious effect on transmission. But as vaccinations continue to increase, it is worth considering what wider immunity levels could mean for the course of the outbreak.

One major question is whether people who have been vaccinated can still spread the virus to others despite not testing positive themselves. Many vaccines protect against such transmission, but scientists have yet to draw conclusions about any of the COVID-19 vaccines so far because the data are not robust enough yet.

A quicker effect Maine could see from vaccinations is a decline in the hospitalization rate. Hospitalizations have continued to drop after a holiday surge. Because most severe cases of the virus have been in older Mainers, hospitalizations could come down quicker than the state’s overall caseload in the coming months if most people age 70 and up are vaccinated, even if the virus is continuing to spread.

A final unknown is whether new variants of the virus could change these trends at all. Maine remains among the states that has yet to detect more contagious strains of the virus that originated in the U.K. and South Africa, though researchers have suggested they will inevitably arrive here. Early data suggest that the vaccines in use here likely protect against those variants. If Maine is able to vaccinate more people before those strains arrive, it could blunt the worst effects of their transmission.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Mainers struggle with spotty internet while pandemic forces more to work from home,” Lori Valigra, Bangor Daily News: “‘I think we’ve reached a happy moment where there is a consensus building quickly that Maine should do something,’ said state Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, who is sponsoring the $100 million broadband bond that the state’s economic recovery committee recommended to [Gov. Janet] Mills last year. ‘It’s what I call a ‘big, hairy, audacious, bipartisan effort’ in the area of networking so our state would have reliable high-speed broadband and spend some money to do it.’”

— “Maine on track to end historic settlement governing its mental health system,” Michael Shepherd, BDN: “State psychiatric hospitals must meet certain benchmarks under the new agreement between the Mills administration, Wathen and Disability Rights Maine lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the 1990 lawsuit. The state must also contract with Disability Rights Maine to provide more advocacy services and assign a liaison to assist patients having trouble getting timely help.”

A pioneer in Maine criminal justice reform has died. Linda Smithers of Starks was credited for challenging the law enforcement orthodoxy in the early 1990s to help lawmakers craft policies strengthening civilian oversight of police and make their training less militaristic. She won the respect of many of Maine’s top law enforcement officials. She was 73.

— “Maine to send nurses to long-term care facilities as vaccine effort intensifies worker shortages,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The state billed the move to Rick Erb, the president of the Maine Health Care Association, as a last resort for facilities that are in a crisis. Homes will have to demonstrate to the state they have made efforts to fix staffing levels before the response team will help them. Staffing levels at many facilities are ‘serious,’ he said, with outbreaks causing more challenges.”

A report into one of the biggest COVID-19 outbreaks in a Maine jail found many basic prevention policies were not followed. Social distancing, enforcement of staff mask-wearing and health evaluations were only implemented after the outbreak at the York County jail began, according to investigators. But Drummond Woodsum attorney Leah Rachin was unable to conclude if those efforts would have prevented the virus from entering the jail, noting several employees did not view the virus as a “legitimate threat.”

Correction: An earlier version misstated the name of the Millinocket library’s director. It is Matt DeLaney.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper, Caitlin Andrews and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...