Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah speaks at a press briefing in Augusta on June 30, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Maine needs to process 46,000 positive COVID-19 tests from the last few weeks in a further sign that daily case counts are waning as an effective measure of the omicron surge.

People who have tested positive have been informed, but those cases have not yet made the state’s daily case counts because officials cannot process positive tests quickly enough, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah told reporters on Wednesday.

Positive results tripled in the same time period. Shah called the figure “staggering.”

It shows how daily case counts, the most prevalent metric used to understand spread for most of the pandemic, are becoming less relevant. State cases figures also do not account for people who are taking at-home tests and not informing the health officials. Public health officials have instead begun to focus more on hospitalizations to understand how severe the virus is.

Maine’s test positivity rate stands at 21.2 percent, a partial result of a 6 percent increase in PCR testing across the state. Shah said that increase in testing is a sign that people who are testing at home are generally doing the right thing by isolating afterward.

“You being able to test yourself in your home on a rapid basis is what really matters,” he said. “Of course, if you test positive, it’s really important to stay home and isolate.”