Younger Mainers account for a growing number of COVID-19 infections in the state, raising concerns that they could fuel another spike.
People in their 20s make up the highest percentage of new cases, about 18%, and those under 20 account for nearly 16%, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Together, those groups account for about a third of new infections, compared with residents over 70, who account for nearly 12% of cases, but 85% of deaths.
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said Thursday it’s possible that the virus isn’t affecting older Mainers as much because they have received most of the coronavirus vaccinations in the state. However, the state is monitoring the situation, he said.
“There is concern,” Shah said. “The increase in cases among younger individuals could be a sign that there is fatigue setting in.”
There are signs pointing to another wave of COVID-19 cases and young people are most likely to facilitate that spike, Dr. James Jarvis, COVID-19 incident commander for Northern Light Health, told the Portland Press Herald.
While younger people aren’t as likely to suffer from severe illness, they can still spread the virus to others, including at-risk groups, often while having no symptoms themselves, Jarvis said.
“If young people are infected and then go visit (others), that’s just one step away from an outbreak occurring.”
The Maine CDC said Thursday that it has reported 47,832 cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic. The agency has also reported 727 deaths.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 170.14 on March 2 to 190 on March 16.
The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 4 on March 2 to 0.29 on March 16.
The state is rolling out coronavirus vaccines to residents based on age. Residents are 60 and older are eligible. A quarter of the state has received at least a first dose, Shah said.
Shah said Thursday that Maine is sticking with age-based tiers. Mainers age 50 and older are set to become eligible in April. Others follow on May 1.