Maine activates National Guard amid hospital bed shortage

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – The governor of Maine on Wednesday activated up to 75 members of the Maine National Guard to expand capacity in health care facilities.

The state is grappling with a surge in COVID-19 that has challenged its hospitals. 379 people with the virus were hospitalized in the state on Wednesday.

Democratic Governor Janet Mills said the guards are being used in non-clinical support roles. That includes helping care facilities and helping administer monoclonal antibodies to prevent serious illness from the virus and keep patients out of the intensive care unit, Mills said.

Mills and other state officials said these steps would clear hospital beds. The announcement came after the state’s largest hospital, Maine Medical Center, postponed about 50% of its operations due to the burden on the facility from COVID-19.

Maine has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, but rates are lagging behind in many rural parts of the state. Mills urged unvaccinated people to get their vaccinations.

More than 60% of COVID-19 patients in hospitals are unvaccinated, and the rate is up to 80% in some facilities, said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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