National Guard to assist hospitals in Maine, New Hampshire
PORTLAND, Maine – The governor of Maine activated up to 75 members of the Maine National Guard on Wednesday to help expand the capacity of health facilities.
The state is facing a wave of COVID-19 that has put its hospitals to the test. A record 379 people were hospitalized with the virus on Wednesday.
Democratic Governor Janet Mills said members of the guard would be used in non-clinical support roles. This will include supporting nursing facilities and helping with the administration of monoclonal antibodies to prevent serious illness from the virus and keep patients out of intensive care, Mills said.
Mills and other state officials said the measures would free up hospital beds. The announcement came as the state’s largest hospital, Maine Medical Center, said it had postponed about 50% of surgeries due to the burden of COVID-19 on the facility.
Maine has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, but rates are lagging in many rural areas of the state. Mills called on unvaccinated people to get vaccinated and said that because the National Guard “is escalating, so do the people of Maine” as cases of the virus increase.
âI don’t take this step lightly, but we need to take action to ease the strain on our health care system and provide care to all who need it,â Mills said.
More than 60% of COVID-19 patients in hospitals are unvaccinated, and the rate reaches 80% in some facilities, said Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Nirav Shah.
About 70 percent of Maine’s population is fully immunized. However, the percentage is less than 60 percent in some rural counties. The state has been the scene of more than 1,300 deaths since the start of the pandemic. There have also been more than 125,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the state.
The New Hampshire National Guard will also deploy 70 members to hospitals to meet needs such as clerical work, catering and more, said Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.