More Maine National Guard members will be deployed next week to help hospitals deal with the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.
Gov. Janet Mills’ move, which she previewed at a news conference last week, comes a day after Maine reported a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and the announcement that the highly contagious omicron variant has become the dominant strain in the state.
Up to 169 guardsmen will be deployed to help alleviate short-term capacity constraints at hospitals by working in non-clinical support roles, Mills’ office said. That adds to another deployment in December for similar support work and to administer monoclonal antibodies, a treatment for high-risk people who contract or are exposed to COVID-19.
Health care providers have been hit hard in recent months by a long-running workforce shortage that has slammed into the COVID-19 surge. The Democratic governor’s vaccine mandate for health care workers was controversial after she announced it in August, though it led to more workers getting shots and prompted relatively few exits overall.
Last week, Maine’s two dominant providers, Portland-based MaineHealth and Brewer-based Northern Light Health, saw more than 1,000 absences on one day as almost entirely vaccinated workers were exposed to the virus. Omicron, which evades vaccine protection more than other strains, is the suspected culprit.
The new guardsmen are expected to deploy next week, though their workplaces have not yet been finalized. They will be in place through at least February.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.