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Maine: Infections up among young; immigrant groups get help

March 18, 2021 GMT
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A jogger takes advantage of T-shirt weather on an spring-like day with temperatures in the mid-50s Fahrenheit, Thursday March 11, 2021, in Portland, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
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A jogger takes advantage of T-shirt weather on an spring-like day with temperatures in the mid-50s Fahrenheit, Thursday March 11, 2021, in Portland, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Younger Mainers account for a growing number of COVID-19 infections in the state, raising concerns that they could fuel another spike.

People in their 20s make up the highest percentage of new cases, about 18%, and those under 20 account for nearly 16%, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Together, those groups account for about a third of new infections, compared with residents over 70, who account for nearly 12% of cases, but 85% of deaths.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said Thursday it’s possible that the virus isn’t affecting older Mainers as much because they have received most of the coronavirus vaccinations in the state. However, the state is monitoring the situation, he said.

“There is concern,” Shah said. “The increase in cases among younger individuals could be a sign that there is fatigue setting in.”

There are signs pointing to another wave of COVID-19 cases and young people are most likely to facilitate that spike, Dr. James Jarvis, COVID-19 incident commander for Northern Light Health, told the Portland Press Herald.

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While younger people aren’t as likely to suffer from severe illness, they can still spread the virus to others, including at-risk groups, often while having no symptoms themselves, Jarvis said.

“If young people are infected and then go visit (others), that’s just one step away from an outbreak occurring.”

In other pandemic-related news:

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THE NUMBERS

The Maine CDC said Thursday that it has reported 47,832 cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic. The agency has also reported 727 deaths.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 170.14 on March 2 to 190 on March 16.

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 4 on March 2 to 0.29 on March 16.

The state is rolling out coronavirus vaccines to residents based on age. Residents are 60 and older are eligible. A quarter of the state has received at least a first dose, Shah said.

Shah said Thursday that Maine is sticking with age-based tiers. Mainers age 50 and older are set to become eligible in April. Others follow on May 1.

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ENCOURAGING MASKS

A coalition of business leaders, health workers and others is launching an effort to encourage mask use in Maine even as many in the state get access to coronavirus vaccines.

The “Keep Maine Safe, Keep Maine Open” campaign will include short videos of people in the state talking about why they still wear masks, organizers said. The campaign will look to spread its message via social media.

“Keeping Maine open means continuing to follow public health guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Rebecca J. Boulos, executive director of the Maine Public Health Association.

The Maine Public Health Association is one of the groups leading the effort.

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GRANTS FOR IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES

More than three dozen groups that serve the immigrant community in Maine are receiving grants to help with coronavirus response.

The Immigrant & Refugee Funders Collaborative said the $445,000 in grants are going to 40 groups that either work with immigrants or are led by immigrants. The collaborative said Tuesday the grants are from Maine Initiatives’ Immigrant-Led Organizations Pooled Fund.

The grants are going to groups including Afghan Association of Maine, Maine Access Immigrant Network and New England Arab American Organization.

Immigrant communities in Maine have been among those most affected by the coronavirus pandemic in the state, Maine Initiatives program officer Shima Kabirigi said. Kabirigi said the groups receiving grants “are providing direct assistance with food, transportation, and housing for individuals and families that are required to quarantine.”