PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine's push to deliver more COVID-19 vaccine includes longer hours and weekend service as the state prepares to open eligibility to 660,000 members of the general public in six weeks.
The vaccine is currently available to people age 60 and older, and availability will widen to those 50 and older on April 1. By May 1, the vaccine is supposed to be available for all adults in the state.
The state is working with providers to determine if they have the capacity to increase both the number of shots delivered and the hours and days of clinics, said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The effort could require more staffing, including family doctors and independent pharmacies.
“Basically what my message to vaccination sites across Maine is, ‘Let’s drill the well before we get thirsty,’” he said.
In other coronavirus-related news:
Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday extended the state's civil emergency declaration for another month.
“We are in a race between vaccinations and variants,” Mills said. “And with more than a quarter of all Maine people now having received their first dose, we are making good progress. But we have got to keep our foot on the gas to get more people vaccinated, to keep people alive and healthy, and to get us back to normal sooner."
It was the 13th extension of the emergency order.
There were at least 210 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Wednesday, according to Maine's CDC. The number was an increase from previous recent days, but remained below daily totals that occurred during the post-holiday surge.
There have now been more than 7,590 cases of COVID-19 in Maine since the pandemic began about a year ago. There have been 725 deaths.
Maine's seven-day average is 190 infections, while the number of deaths is below one. No new deaths were reported Wednesday.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said Tuesday they have introduced a bill to prevent major cuts to Medicare payments to health care providers from taking effect during the coronavirus pandemic.
Collins and Shaheen said health care providers are relying on Medicare to keep their doors open and can’t afford reductions in Medicare payments. Collins said the proposal is designed to prevent “payment cuts to hospitals, physicians, home health providers and others as we continue to respond to this public health and economic crisis.”
This story has been corrected to show the total reported number of coronavirus cases in Maine since the start of the pandemic is 47,591, not 43,483.