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Delta variant of COVID-19 'raises concern' for Maine CDC, threatens progress against virus

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said during Wednesday's briefing that the COVID Delta variant is more contagious, can lead to more severe symptoms

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine CDC announced concerns on Wednesday about the Delta variant of COVID-19 undermining Maine's progress against the virus.

During Wednesday's briefing, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said that the variant is more contagious, can lead to more severe symptoms, and possibly be more deadly.

Right now, the Maine CDC reports just four cases of it in the state, but Dr. Shah said that is likely an undercount.

He said the vaccines available are effective against it and other variants but that Maine needs more people to get vaccinated to protect people from variants overall.

"The threat posed by the Delta variant is not one from outsiders coming to Maine and bringing the variant with them. The threat of the Delta variant is here already," said Shah. "It is a threat posed by the fact that the variant is already existing in Maine, it is already circulating, and if folks aren't vaccinated, it will have that much more of a chance to get a foothold."

As of Wednesday, 65.01 percent of Maine people age 12 and older received a final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Shah said they are now focusing on reaching those who have not gotten the vaccine and trying to understand why.

He hopes the sweepstakes will motivate people to get the shot with its ever-increasing prize of more than $886,000. He said more than 8,713 new people had gotten a dose of the vaccine since the state announced the sweepstakes last Wednesday. As of 8 a.m. on Wednesday, June 23, the Maine CDC said 226,067 Mainers had registered for the sweepstakes.

"It's less about the number and more about who are those folks? If these are folks who may have previously been uncertain or unsure about whether or not they wanted to get but are now coming forward and saying "you know what: I'm willing to do that. COVID is concerning to me, and I've got a shot at winning some cash," then I think that's a great thing, that's what matters right now," Shah said.

Dr. Shah said the CDC and DHHS are not planning to restrict travel to or from Maine, nor are they planning to re-institute any quarantine or testing requirements. He said when considering those strategies, they look for hotspots in the country where variants are spreading and that currently, there is no particular hotspot.

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