AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine's public health officials are warning that even people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are at risk of harboring the virus in their nose and mouth and transmitting it to others.
The Delta variant is at least twice as contagious as other coronavirus variants, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said.
"The Delta variant multiplies more quickly in the body, so there's more virus, even in people who can be vaccinated," said Shah on Friday. "That multiplication means that people can transmit the Delta variant even though they happen to be vaccinated."
Shah called that phenomenon rare, but that the "risk is not zero." His concern is that fully vaccinated people could inadvertently or unknowingly spread the virus to vulnerable people who may not be vaccinated, such as children.
"By masking up in indoor public settings in places where there is a lot of virus -- even though you're vaccinated -- you reduce that risk of accidentally, inadvertently transmitting the virus to vulnerable people around you: a risk that because of the Delta variant, we fear may be growing," said Dr. Shah during Wednesday's media briefing.
The state and federal CDCs recommend people wear masks indoors in areas where community transmission of the virus is "substantial" or "high." As of Friday, the U.S. CDC considered Somerset and Hancock counties to be areas of "substantial" spread, and that Waldo County was considered "high."
The latest data from the Maine CDC shows 29 confirmed cases of Delta variant in the state, though the true number is likely higher because Maine only submits a little over five percent of positive cases for genomic sequencing, which is above the federal standard.
Dr. Shah said the majority of the spread of the virus is in unvaccinated people or in areas where vaccination rates are low. 69.6 percent of people in Hancock County age 12 and older have a final dose, according to Maine CDC data, ranking it fifth in the state in percent of eligible people with a final dose.