North Memorial Health Hospital Critical Care Nurse Kayla Lynch wears a protective gown before entering the room of a COVID-19 patient during her shift Monday, Dec. 7, 2020 in Robbinsdale, Minn. Credit: Aaron Levinsky / Star Tribune via AP

The month of November has seen several record-breaking days for COVID hospitalizations in Maine, and that trend continued on Monday with 296 people hospitalized.

The number of people in critical care has increased to 87 and the number of people who need ventilators has also increased, to 36.

Dr. Dora Mills of the MaineHealth hospital network said that staff are stretched thin and hospitals are managing the surge by spreading out patients across its system.

“While I’m concerned about this week, I’m more concerned about the two weeks after Thanksgiving,” she said.

Mills said that now is the time to pause and reconsider Thanksgiving plans. She suggests people move celebrations outdoors around fire pits. Make sure everyone who is eligible has been vaccinated. And if some guests are not yet eligible for the vaccine, wear masks indoors.

Patients are more spread out among rural hospitals, according to Dr. James Jarvis of Northern Light Health. While he says it’s good that smaller hospitals are now able to care for COVID patients, the sheer number is alarming.

And he also worries that holiday gatherings will fuel even more transmission across the state.

“And so the concern is, if it’s not just one particular region of the state that’s seeing a high rate, but the entire state, then there is no relief valve for one hospital to be able to rely on another one.”

Jarvis said that hospitals are already strained and many ERs are boarding patients who would normally be in an inpatient bed.

The way to get the surge under control is to wear masks indoors in public places, wash hands, stay home when sick and get vaccinated, Jarvis said.