Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Augusta. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Although COVID-19 cases have fallen from a pandemic-high reported in January 2022, there is some evidence that the virus may be on the rise again.

Surveillance data show that there has been an increase in viral RNA in wastewater over the past 15 days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Wastewater surveillance results showed uniform increases in viral levels across the state,” Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention tweeted on Tuesday. “This is different from the episodic spikes we’ve seen before.”

A record high of 10,968 COVID cases were reported on Feb. 15, which was when the state started working through a backlog of more than 50,000 cases.

Data collected through March 31 show that virus concentrations in Bangor wastewater have increased to levels similar to those reported around mid-February.

During the two-week period from Feb. 1 to Feb. 14, an average of 962 COVID-19 cases were reported by the Maine CDC daily, and 176 new hospitalizations were reported during that time frame.

That’s compared with an average of 215 new cases reported per day over the two-week period from March 22 to April 5, during which 80 new hospitalizations were reported.

The number of COVID-positive tests reported daily to the Maine CDC has steadily stayed at 227, according to Shah.

However, the number of Mainers admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 slightly increased to 104 on Tuesday, after staying below 100 since March 18 — which Shah noted could be a new metric to judge whether COVID-19 infections are rising throughout the state.

“The widespread use of at-home tests may mean that our leading indicators are now wastewater and hospitalizations,” Shah said on Twitter. “Indeed, it could be that an increase in #COVID19 case numbers happens in parallel with an increase [in] hospitalizations as hospitals run confirmatory PCR tests on inpatients.”

Shah also noted that these trends are similar to what he has observed in data from the United Kingdom and other places in New England, which have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, 451 new coronavirus cases were reported, and of the 104 Mainers hospitalized with the virus, 28 were in critical care and another five were on ventilators.

Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.