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Maine pols want more telehealth; COVID-19 decline continues

May 19, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s U.S. senators are joining a push to make the use of telehealth easier as the country moves beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King said the use of telehealth among Medicare beneficiaries increased dramatically during the pandemic. They want to expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare and make COVID-19 telehealth flexibilities permanent.

The senators are supporting a proposal called the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies for Health Act of 2021. It’s also called the CONNECT Act.

Collins said the changes would allow Maine seniors to “continue to take advantage of remote home health care amid the COVID-19 public health emergency and beyond.”

The proposal would also permanently remove geographic restrictions on telehealth services, the senators said. It would also allow health centers and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services, they said.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said expanded telehealth would be especially helpful for rural Maine residents.

“We really could use that partnership,” Lambrew said.

In other pandemic news in Maine:

THE NUMBERS

The number of vaccinated people in the state is creeping up and the number of daily cases of the coronavirus is creeping down.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 297.14 new cases a day on May 3 to 236.71 new cases a day on Monday. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 1.86 deaths a day on May 3 to 1.14 deaths a day Monday.

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.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said there have been more than 66,000 cases of the virus and 807 deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic.

The state also said about 55% of the eligible people in the state have had their final dose of coronavirus vaccine. The rate of vaccination has slowed since the early push, but the total number of vaccinated people in the state is still trending up.

The state has seen progress in vaccinating people between the ages of 12 and 15, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said. That is the most recent age group to be deemed eligible for vaccination.

“We want to keep that up,” he said.

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YOUNGER COVID-19 PATIENTS

Shah also said that more of the state’s coronavirus cases are occurring in younger people. Since April 1, 45% of the new cases of COVID-19 are among people younger than 30, he said.

“That’s a stark change from where we were before vaccination, when the bulk of the cases were in people who were in their 50s, 60s and 70s,” Shah said.

Shah said vaccination rates among younger Maine residents are still lagging behind those of older residents. About 54,000 people in their 20s have had their final dose of coronavirus vaccine, state records show. The number for people in their 60s is nearly three times that, records show.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.