CALAIS, Maine (AP) — Maine is going to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get COVID-19 vaccines to residents in rural and under-served communities, officials with the state said Tuesday.
The administration of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said the state and FEMA will partner on a mobile vaccination unit that will bring vaccines to communities. The governor's office said the unit will be only the second of its kind in New England.
The unit will start by bringing vaccines to Oxford on April 12, the governor's office said. It will then go to 10 other communities in Maine, including Fryeburg, Calais and Madawaska, the office said.
“The clinic will complement our existing vaccination efforts well and allow people in rural communities to more easily get the vaccine, protecting their health and that of their loved ones and helping us to win the fight against COVID-19,” Mills said in a statement.
The governor's office said the unit is expected to vaccinate at least 250 people per day. It will use the one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, the office said. Appointments will be required, Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said.
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, called the use of the unit “a major step forward” for Maine's vaccination effort. Maine is one of the most rural states in the U.S.
In other pandemic news in Maine:
MORE VACCINES SOON
The wait is almost over for tens of thousands of Maine residents who have been anxious to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
The state is set to open up eligibility Wednesday to everyone 16 and over. Maine is one of dozens of states around the country that is expanding access to the vaccines this month.
Supplies in the state remain limited, and not everyone will be able to get vaccinated right away. The state is operating a pre-registration system for residents who want to get in line. Numerous health care providers around the state are also operating their own registration systems.
Maine previously opened up access to the vaccine to everyone 50 and older. Teachers and frontline health care workers have also been able to receive the vaccine.
Almost a quarter of the state's residents have completed the vaccine series, Shah said.
More vaccines are arriving while cases of the virus are rising.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 205.14 new cases per day on March 21 to 279.43 new cases per day on April 4. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 0.57 deaths per day on March 21 to 1.43 deaths per day on April 4.
Maine CDC said Tuesday that it has reported more than 52,000 positive cases of the virus and 746 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Bates College in Lewiston is locked down until Sunday due to a surge in coronavirus cases.
The college reached a high of 60 active cases on Monday, the Sun Journal reported. The paper reported students are required to stay in their rooms with the exception of limited reasons such as taking tests. In-person classes are off this week.
Josh McIntosh, vice president for campus life, said “unmasked social gatherings have been the most common source of infection, both from recent events as well as those that happened earlier in the semester.”
Mills also said Monday that the state has updated its pandemic guidelines to allow for more attendance at town meetings next month.
The state had been limiting indoor town meetings to 50% of permitted occupancy or 50 people, whichever is greater. That number increases to 75% or permitted occupancy on May 24, the governor's office said.
Outdoor town meetings have been limited to 75% of occupancy and will increase to 100% on May 24, the office said.
Mills office said the rules are “based on the premise that the right to debate and vote as well as public health and safety can be protected with procedures specially designed for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic.”