PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Two of the top ranking Democratic members of the Maine Senate have tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.
Maine Senate President Troy Jackson tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the highest-ranking official in state government to contract the virus. Senate Major Leader Eloise Vitelli also said she had received a positive test.
Jackson said he is isolating after testing positive in Augusta. He said he is not experiencing symptoms but decided to undergo a rapid test after learning a close contact had the virus.
“While breakthrough COVID-19 infections are far more rare, we know that they are possible. More and more breakthrough infections continue to be reported all across the state and country due to the highly contagious delta variant,” Jackson, D-Allagash, said Tuesday evening in a statement.
Jackson said he was grateful to be vaccinated since vaccines have proven to be effective in preventing severe symptoms and hospitalizations. Vitelli, of Arrowsic, said she was experiencing only mild symptoms on Wednesday.
“I wanted to share my positive test results with the public for the sake of transparency, but also as a reminder that we must continue to use every tool in our toolbox to protect ourselves and each other,” Vitelli said.
The lawmakers are two of several state lawmakers to test positive. U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine also experienced a breakthrough infection and has since recovered.
In other pandemic news in Maine:
New cases of the coronavirus in Maine have risen by nearly 70% from two weeks ago. The number of deaths is growing, too.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 262 new cases per day on Aug. 30 to 444 new cases per day on Sept. 13. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine has also risen over the past two weeks from about one death per day to about four in the same period.
The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said the high daily caseloads are unlikely to abate in the short term.
“Based on every epidemiological metric we're seeing, we anticipate seeing high numbers for the next week and perhaps even longer than that,” Shah said.
Maine CDC reported another 778 infections and seven deaths on Wednesday. That brings the total number of deaths in Maine to nearly 82,000 and the number of deaths to 976.
SCHOOL IMMUNIZATION RATES
Maine health officials said Wednesday that 76% of school staff members in the state were fully vaccinated against coronavirus.
Maine CDC reported that 73% of the state’s total eligible population is fully vaccinated against coronavirus. Rates vary around the state, however. The rate in Cumberland County, the state’s most populous county, is more than 85%, while in more rural Somerset County it’s less than 60%.
That divide also appears to be true of school staff members. The rate was close to 90% in Cumberland but closer to 60% in more rural Waldo County.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has launched the monthly public reporting system about vaccination rates in school staff to try to support immunization efforts in schools.
“By publishing these vaccination rates each month, we hope to boost school staff vaccination even further, curb the spread of COVID-19, and equip school leaders with information to make the best decisions for their communities," health department Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said.
COVID-19 infections are skewing younger. Roughly half of infections announced on Tuesday involved people 19 and younger, the Sun Journal reported.
Dr. Gretchen Pianka, a pediatrician, said she and other physicians at Central Maine Pediatrics in Lewiston are seeing more COVID-19 cases among children since the school year started. They're also seeing other types of respiratory viruses, she said.
A Maine CDC report published Tuesday indicated that, as of Sept. 6, nearly 30% of all COVID-19 cases in Maine were among people younger than 25, and 17.5% were among individuals 18 years and younger.
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