Maine took a big leap forward in vaccine eligibility Wednesday, as it fights a jump of COVID-19 cases.
On Wednesday, the state began allowing anyone 16 or older to get the shots, a move that expanded eligibility to more than 470,000 new people.
Supply of the vaccine remains limited, and the state and health care providers are using advanced scheduling and registration to get as many people booked for a vaccine as possible.
The state previously rolled out vaccines to everyone age 50 and older. Front-line healthcare workers and teachers have also received priority for a shot.
At the same time, Maine’s COVID seven-day PCR positivity rate climbed to 3%, one of its highest levels since early winter.
There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that more young people are getting sick and some of them hospitalized, according to Dr. James Jarvis, COVID-19 senior physician executive for system incident command at Northern Light Health
“We are seeing a trend across the United States and somewhat here in the State of Maine that the average age of the people admitted is younger than what we’ve seen previously,” Jarvis said.
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention data shows hospitalizations for all age groups climbing after a February-March dip. There is also agency data showing that cases among people in their twenties climbed almost 16% in Maine over the last month. That group now makes up a higher share of total COVID-19 cases than any other age tier tracked by Maine CDC.
The virus’ impact on younger Maine residents is apparent at Maine colleges and universities.
Bates College in Lewiston remains under an “in-room restriction” that has now been extended until Sunday after what the school called “an unchecked surge” following “three social gatherings, (two on-campus and one off-campus),” according to an update on the school’s website.
As of Tuesday, there were 75 people with COVID-19 in isolation housing and 106 “students in close-contact quarantine,” according to the Bates College COVID-19 Dashboard.
Meanwhile, athletic staff at the University of Maine called Wednesday “a very difficult day for our staff and our players” after an apparent sudden end to the school’s football season.
The school was slated to play the University of Rhode Island but that school canceled its season, citing COVID concerns. That announcement followed a prior one from the University of New Hampshire that it was ending its football season as well, again because of COVID-19 problems.
“We’re not opting out, “ said Nick Charlton, UMaine’s head football coach, during an afternoon news conference about the cancellation.
Charlton added that the team is determining what its players want to do and “assessing what’s actually out there in terms of replacing these games,” though he cautioned those options are “pretty limited right now.”
Statewide, coronavirus cases are rising. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in the state has risen over the past two weeks from 205.14 new cases per day on March 21 to 279.43 new cases per day on April 4. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 0.57 deaths per day on March 21 to 1.43 deaths per day on April 4.
But Jarvis also said Wednesday that he was “encouraged” that progress would be made battling COVID-19 because a number of people were signing up to get vaccinated, and he hopes more do so.
“As I look down the rows of people being vaccinated already today, there are lots of young people out here, it’s great to see,” he said from an observation area at a mass vaccine clinic in Bangor.