Chris Laird, critical care nurse at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, says that the hospital has reached a critical point, as ICU beds continue to fill with COVID patients. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor saw a record number of coronavirus hospitalizations on Thursday as the delta variant continues to spread across the state.

A total of 58 people were hospitalized in the hospital that day, beating the previous record of 55 the hospital set on Dec. 31, 2020, amid that period’s winter surge, according to data from Northern Light Health.

The record hospitalizations are indicative of the significant community spread occurring in Penobscot County, which has seen a significant number of cases in recent days. It is also another indicator that the present surge is eclipsing the worst seen in the county last winter. The 164 cases reported on Wednesday were the highest ever seen in the county.

Three in 10 Penobscot County residents eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine have not received a single dose, according to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Nearly all of the patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across the Northern Light Health system are unvaccinated, data from the health system shows. Vaccinated patients are also far less likely to be in the ICU or to go on a ventilator.

EMMC also draws patients from other rural counties in the northern part of Maine with lower vaccination rates that have seen elevated case rates in recent weeks. Northern Light officials have long said such rural residents make up a disproportionately high number of those hospitalized.

The Bangor hospital’s ICU has been overwhelmed in recent weeks amid the surge in patients. Staff have been stretched thin during the recent surge, with some being unavailable as they get sick from either the coronavirus or due to increased stress, critical care nurse Chris Laird said late last month. Treating this wave of patients requiring ICU care has also been more staff-intensive, Laird said.

More than 9 percent of all coronavirus tests in Penobscot County over the last two weeks have come back positive. Only Piscataquis and Somerset counties had higher rates over that period.

Northern Light Mayo Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft also saw a record number of hospitalizations, with six this month as of Sept. 7. That number had fallen to one as of Thursday.