Maine topped 500 new daily COVID-19 infections for the first time during the pandemic on Wednesday, a day after hospitals began providing the first Pfizer vaccines to health care workers.
Major hospital groups began receiving and administering the vaccines to at least 475 people in the state earlier this week.
The first Mainer to receive the vaccine on Tuesday was Kayla Mitchell, 31, of Scarborough, a registered nurse who works in the intensive care unit at Maine Medical Center, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Mitchell told the newspaper she's confident the vaccine is safe and effective, especially compared to the pain and suffering of the disease.
"I trust the science and I trust that receiving the vaccine is a safer alternative to how critically ill patients are suffering," Mitchell said. "I've seen enough. People are scared and they end up alone. It's exhausting and it's relentless."
Still, there is cause for concern ahead of a holiday where, like Thanksgiving, a number of Mainers are expected to travel to or gather with loved ones.
Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that he's had anecdotal reports of increased requests for testing made by asymptomatic people who may or may not be going some to meet with family for various holidays.
"We've heard anecdotal reports of individuals inquiring about how they can get tested in advance of their holiday travel or if they've got folks coming to visit," Shah said.
As for what happens if hospitalization continue to climb like Maine's cases, Shah said there is some remaining capacity I the state right now and Maine CDC is not planning to use anything like field hospitals yet.
That said, healthcare providers are keeping a wary eye on the space they have available.
"We are concerned," said Dr. James Jarvis, the COVID-19 senior physician executive at Northern Light Health, which includes Mercy Hospital in Portland and Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. "If the hospitalizations continue to increase like they are right now, Christmas morning could be a devastating time for Mainers because there will be limited number of beds."
Wednesday's report of 551 infections and two more deaths marked the seventh time in the past 10 days when Maine saw new cases rise above 400.
The seven-day daily average stood at 409.3 on Wednesday, more than double a month ago, the Maine CDC said.