A Number of Maine's ICU Beds Are Full Amid COVID Spike

The delta variant of COVID has pushed a significant amount of people from Maine’s rural communities who are not vaccinated into Northern Light hospitals

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Ahead of Labor Day weekend, Maine only has a few dozen intensive care unit beds available at its hospitals.

Somewhere around 40 of the state’s total ICU beds were available as of Thursday, with Maine’s recent total ICU bed number fluctuating between 320-340.

“We’re at least two weeks behind the rest of the country when it comes to what the delta variant has done for us,” said Dr. James Jarvis, senior physician executive for Northern Light Health, one of the state's major health care groups.

During a media event Wednesday, Jarvis explained that the contagious virus variant has pushed a significant amount of people from Maine's rural communities who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 into Northern Light hospitals, and that spike is “concerning.”

We thought we could control the pandemic with about 70% of the country vaccinated. But with the Delta variant leading to case surges even in highly vaccinated countries, that changes the math. We may need 90% to take the COVID-19 vaccine to really wrangle with this variant, says Alabama epidemiologist Dr. Suzanne Judd.

“Many of those individuals in critical care are requiring such a large amount of staff resourcing that it makes it hard for us to continue to manage elsewhere,” he said.

“If we run out of hospital beds, we won’t be here for the next heart attack or motor vehicle accident or woman who needs to deliver her baby in a safe environment,” Jarvis added.

Asked Thursday if he was concerned the traditional uptick in visitors to Maine for Labor Day weekend would put a strain on the state’s health care system, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, said “yes and no,” and that data from previous years suggests ICU beds will not be pushed to full limits.

“Yes in the sense there’s going to be more people in the state, no in the sense that what’ve seen now is that Maine has been able to do summer without causing ... absolute increases in COVID cases,” Shah said.

However, he cautioned holiday visitors to wear masks regardless of vaccination status in counties where that is recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Shah also suggested that anyone who is unvaccinated and coming to the state should “limit exposure” to other people.

Both Jarvis and Shah urged those who are eligible to get vaccinated but have not done so to get their shots to prevent further cases in Maine.

“We are pleading with you to help us,” Jarvis said.

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