Dear Friends –
The days fly by. Summer arrives with the somber Memorial Holiday and after weeks of needing rain it arrived all at once with a good dose of cold to boot. The streets outside our office in Camden are busy and it is good to see people’s faces after a long year. We continue to look forward to celebrating Maine’s summer with optimism but vigilance regarding the SARS Co-V-2 pandemic.
While the trends are moving in the right direction the race to leave COVID in the rearview mirror is not over. As summer beckons we are far more protected across society. In the good news column, Maine has among the best vaccination rates in the country with 59.2% of the entire population fully vaccinated, 60.5% with first dose, 1.4 million doses of vaccine delivered and the work is continuing.
In the more challenging news column, the base line of positive tests, ER visits, new cases, new hospitalizations, and the strain on critical care beds resembles last November rather than last August. Our new baseline is higher and despite our progress with vaccinations and reducing new infections through continued adherence to infection prevention protocols we continue to see COVID patients needing LifeFlight every day.
When we started these updates fourteen months ago, we noted that we are all in this together. This remains true today and the good news is that we are winning the war through science and collective action. We need to keep the momentum in defeating this disease which has caused incredible pain and suffering for so many patients and families and disrupted our economy and schools. The continued collective action we need is to get vaccinated or continue to follow the two out of three rule.
It is very clear the vaccines work. New serious infections requiring hospitalization are now almost universally associated with non-vaccinated status, and serious cases are among younger patients.
Reported, serious side effects and breakthrough infections in Maine are very low (333 breakthrough infections out of over 732,000 fully vaccinated individuals), evidence that vaccines are safe and effective and that collective action around vaccines can keep new variant disease at bay. However, we do remain in a race between vaccination and the evolution of even more virulent variant strains of COVID that could increase transmission and decrease the effectiveness of vaccines, putting us all at risk for continuing surges of COVID.
If we are not vaccinated, to prevent illness, the two out of three rule holds—outdoors, distanced, and wear a mask. This was the case last summer before the vaccines and working together we were able to keep the baseline low. Further, while all of us want to leave our masks behind, when we are indoors, especially in small or crowded public places masks are still warranted, maybe not for us but for the people working in our stores and restaurants as well as the other customers. It is part of the social responsibility we all have in helping keep each other to stay healthy. We need to constantly socialize safely.
This is ever more important as the good news trends are tempered by the continuing pandemic now forecasted to become a chronic disease state with the constant evolution of new variants, surges, and outbreaks. We are seeing these here, nationally, and across the world. So please help in our resolve to keep us all moving to the renewal of the Maine summer we most certainly need.
And speaking of renewal, there is a lot of work LifeFlight does day in and day out and you can find our recent “Future is Bright” event and our new national demonstration project on our YouTube channel here.
Best wishes for a healthy and happy summer.
On behalf of the LifeFlight team,
Thomas Judge, Paramedic
Norm Dinerman, MD, FACEP