Maine health officials reported 35 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, closing out another week of steadily declining numbers.
Two additional deaths were reported as well.
For nine consecutive days, the number of new cases hasn’t topped 50 and has been as low as 12.
The seven-day daily case average now sits at 27, the lowest it’s been since last September. It’s down from 62 cases two weeks and from 148 cases this time last month. During the springtime peak in April, the daily average got as high as 470.
In all, there have been 68,924 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 and 858 deaths since the pandemic reached Maine in March 2020, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hospitalizations have leveled off in Maine over the last couple weeks. As of Friday, there were 31 individuals in a Maine hospital with COVID-19, including 15 in critical care and six on ventilators. There were four times as many people hospitalized exactly one month ago.
Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah noted Thursday that 29 of 31 people in hospitals with COVID-19 – or 94 percent – were not fully vaccinated against the disease.
Although cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been declining in Maine and most other states, health officials are still urging caution about the spread of the so-called delta variant, which is highly transmissible and is on the verge of becoming the dominant strain. States and areas with low vaccination rates are most at risk of seeing new case spikes.
Vaccinations have slowed dramatically in recent weeks, but Maine still ranks 2nd behind only Vermont in states with the highest vaccination rate, according to a Bloomberg tracker. The top seven states are the six New England states plus New Jersey. The states that have the lowest vaccination rates are almost exclusively in the south.
Overall, Maine has administered 772,053 final doses of vaccine, accounting for 57.4 percent of all residents and 65.2 percent of those 12 and older who are eligible. That number includes all second doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Gaps persist, though, with younger Mainers and in rural counties.
The vaccination rate for those 50 or older is 79.3 percent, while the rate for those between the ages of 12-49 is just 51.3 percent.
Cumberland County, where more than 1 in 5 Mainers lives, has the highest rate of vaccination, at 68.9 percent. But several lesser populated rural counties have yet to crack the 50 percent threshold, led by Somerset County, where just 45.1 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.
More and more, there is clear evidence that vaccinations are working to slow the virus’ spread and to limit hospitalizations and deaths.
An Associated Press analysis of available U.S. CDC data from May showed that “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated people accounted for fewer than 1,200 of more than 853,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations, or about 0.1%.
And only about 150 of the more than 18,000 COVID-19 deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people, or about 0.8%.
There is evidence in Maine as well that vaccinations are working.
The six counties with the highest rate of virus transmission over the most recent 28-day period, according to the CDC, are: Somerset, Washington, Piscataquis, Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin.
The six counties with the lowest vaccination rates are: Somerset, Piscataquis, Oxford, Franklin, Androscoggin and Washington.
This story will be updated.