PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s governor activated as many as 75 members of the Maine National Guard on Wednesday to help expand capacity at health care facilities.
The state is dealing with a surge in COVID-19 that has challenged its hospitals. A record of 379 people were hospitalized Wednesday with the virus.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said the guard members will be used in non-clinical support roles. That will include supporting nursing facilities and helping to administer monoclonal antibodies to prevent serious illness from the virus and keep patients out of critical care, Mills said.
Mills and other state officials said those steps will free up hospital beds. The announcement came as the state’s largest hospital, Maine Medical Center, said it has postponed about 50 percent of surgeries because of the burden of COVID-19 on the facility.
Maine has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, but rates lag in many rural parts of the state. Mills called on unvaccinated people to get their shots, and said that because the National Guard is “stepping up, so, too, must Maine people” as cases of the virus rise.
“I do not take this action lightly, but we must take steps to alleviate the strain on our health care system and ensure care for all those who need it,” Mills said.
More than 60 percent of the COVID-19 patients in hospitals are unvaccinated, and the rate is as high as 80 percent at some facilities, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Nirav Shah said.
About 70 percent of Maine’s population is fully vaccinated. The percentage is less than 60 percent in some rural counties, however. The state has been the site 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 help with needs such as clerical work, food service, and more, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said.