SCARBOROUGH, Maine (AP) — Maine’s growing number of COVID-19 cases is disproportionately affecting smaller towns.
The 20 ZIP codes with the highest infection rate in the last month are concentrated in York, Androscoggin, Kennebec and Oxford counties, and only three — Lewiston, Waterville and Sanford — are major urban areas, the Bangor Daily News reported.
Health officials said factors could be growing weariness of masks and social distancing.
The growth in infections comes even as the state's vaccine effort ramps up. About 36% of Maine residents are fully vaccinated, and the vaccine is now available to everyone 16 and older.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the average age of patients with COVID-19 has also come down to 35. Earlier this year it was 43, he said.
“All of this shows how opportunistic the virus is," Shah said.
In other pandemic-related news:
The daily caseload is also continuing to tick up.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 218.86 on March 30 to 385.29 on April 13. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 1.71 on March 30 to 1.43 on April 13.
Maine CDC reported Thursday that the virus has killed 758 people in Maine. The agency has also reported more than 55,000 positive cases.
Maine will remain under a state of emergency order until at least the middle of May, the governor has ruled.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills extended the emergency order Wednesday. She first instituted the order in March 2020, near the outset of the pandemic.
The order gives the state the ability to use all available resources to contain the spread of coronavirus.
“With nearly half of all eligible Maine people having received at least one dose of a vaccine, we are making 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," Mills said.
Many Republicans in the state have said the emergency order has been in effect for too long and gives Mills too much authority. She has said it's an important piece of the response to the pandemic.
Mills' office also said other states, including Georgia, South Carolina and Texas, have extended their own civil emergency orders this month.
Maine veterans homes are set to receive nearly $2 million in federal funding to help with the coronavirus pandemic.
Maine has a higher percentage of veterans than the nation at large. Republic Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King said Tuesday the increased funding “will help to ensure Maine’s veterans continue to receive quality health care as we combat this public health and economic crisis.”
The money is a product of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that became law late last year. The law allowed the VA to use up to $100 million to make one-time emergency payments to state veterans homes, the senators said.
The largest share of the money is going to a veterans home in Scarborough that is set to receive more than $500,000. The veterans homes provide long-term care to veterans.