Several key metrics suggest COVID-19 transmission has declined in Maine over the past few weeks even as the state still reports high case numbers amid a backlog in positive tests.
It provides a glimmer of good news as Maine approaches the second anniversary of the pandemic’s arrival here. Although the surge of the omicron variant has challenged hospitals and overwhelmed the state’s system of counting cases, the recent improving metrics also fit with trends from across the U.S. suggesting the highly contagious strain peaked quickly.
Maine’s share of emergency room patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms has dropped from a peak of 13.7 percent in mid-January to 9.2 percent at the end of the month. That is the lowest level in more than a month.
The number of patients hospitalized with the virus declined to 344 on Wednesday, down more from a high of 436 on Jan. 13. The number of patients requiring critical care beds or ventilators has also continued to decline. The 83 patients in critical care beds on Wednesday was the lowest single-day total since mid-November.
Fewer patients have required critical care beds or ventilators during the omicron surge compared to previous waves of the virus. But the drop in the number of severely ill patients over the past week as omicron has remained predominant is further evidence that the transmission of the virus has slowed.
Counting COVID-19 cases has been a challenge amid the omicron surge, as Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that it faced a backlog of 56,000 positive tests. The increased use of at-home virus testing has also challenged case counts as people who test positive at home do not report that information to the state.
But the recent data from Maine generally follow trends elsewhere. Nationwide, reported COVID-19 cases have dropped 47 percent since a peak on Jan. 15, according to a New York Times analysis.
Nearby Vermont, which has followed many of the same virus trends as Maine, is also reporting a more than 50 percent drop in cases over the past two weeks, while hospitalizations there have also started to decline.