PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The director of the Maine Center for Disease Control said the incoming supply of vaccine is stable and growing on Thursday as the number of COVID-19 deaths topped 700 in the state.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services expects to receive an 8.4% increase in doses for a total of 30,080 first doses next week, officials said. On top of that, 8,980 doses are being shipped from the federal government directly to pharmacies across the state.

And additional doses of a new vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, could come next week if it receives emergency approval, Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, told reporters in a briefing.

“For the first time, we have stability in what our projections look like not just for the next few days but the next few weeks,” he said.

Shah spoke on the same day the Maine CDC reported an additional 24 deaths, a day after 17 deaths were reported. Those deaths, 41 over two days, brought the total number of deaths to 701.

The two-day figures reflect some of the highest death tolls in weeks and stand in contrast to an overall downward trend in deaths and hospitalizations since the start of the year.

“We're not out of it,” Shah said. Even though there are many positive trends, people need to remain vigilant, he said.

The latest 14-day positivity rate in Maine is 1.7%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

As for vaccines, more than 211,000 Mainers had received first doses and more than 105,000 had received second doses as of Thursday, Shah said.

Maine is poised to expand eligibility to Mainers 65 and older in coming days. Mainers 70 and older are currently eligible along with first responders, health care workers and long-term care residents.

In other pandemic-related news:



Maine's governor is throwing her support behind a proposed “COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights” touted by top Democrats in the state.

The Maine Legislature's Office of the Presiding Officers has said the proposal is designed to “require state-regulated health insurance companies to cover COVID-19 screening, testing and immunization at no cost to the patient." The proposal has the support of Senate President Troy Jackson and other prominent Maine Democrats.

Gov. Janet Mills, who is also a Democrat, called the proposal “important legislation” on Tuesday and said she supports it. Mills said in testimony that testing, in particular, “will continue to be necessary as we aim to more fully resume economic, educational, and social activity.”

The proposal faces more consideration in the Maine Legislature.



The Trek Across Maine has become a virtual event open for cyclists for the second consecutive year.

The annual event, which had been scheduled for June 18-20, is the largest fundraiser in the country for the American Lung Association. More than $550,000 was raised at last year's event.

Participants in the virtual Trek can track their own progress and complete their mileage goals for Trek Across Maine by cycling 60, 120 or 180 miles at their own pace before June 30.