A couple watches the surf come in near The Pier, Thursday, July 1, 2021, in Old Orchard Beach. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — COVID-19 infections have continued to decline after Gov. Janet Mills ended Maine’s state of emergency last week with vaccination rate remaining among the highest in the nation.

Maine reported 38 new virus cases and one death on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic to 861. But the seven-day average of new cases still fell to just 18, according to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Several other metrics indicate the virus is not spreading more widely amid nationwide concern about the more contagious delta variant. The number of patients hospitalized with the virus stood at 31 as of Wednesday, up slightly compared with earlier in the week. But hospitalizations are still down nearly 50 percent compared with a month ago and have reached the lowest levels since they spiked in early November of last year.

The positivity rate — or the share of tests coming back positive — has dropped significantly in recent weeks. Including both viral and antigen tests, the seven-day average positivity rate was 0.63 percent as of Wednesday, down from 0.82 percent last week and 2.18 percent a month ago. At the winter height of the pandemic, the positivity rate exceeded 6 percent, while the lowest seven-day positivity rate recorded in Maine CDC data was 0.39 percent in October 2020.

That lower positivity rate seen over the past few weeks suggests that declining infections in Maine are the result of decreased spread of the virus, not just less testing as many Mainers have moved toward a pre-pandemic normal.

The improving metrics in Maine come as more than a dozen states — mostly in areas with low vaccination rates the southern and western U.S. — have seen cases trend upward again over the past few weeks, according to the New York Times.

Nearly 900,000 Mainers have received at least one vaccine dose, according to federal data, although the rate of vaccinations has slowed significantly compared with a few months ago. Maine still has among the highest vaccination rates of any state, trailing only Vermont, Hawaii, Connecticut and Massachusetts in terms of the share of its adult population to get the vaccine.

Coronavirus infections among fully vaccinated people remain rare in Maine, with only 502 of the so-called “breakthrough” cases confirmed here, according to state data. That suggests about 1 out of more than 1,600 fully vaccinated people have tested positive for the virus here. By comparison, 1 out of every 80 Mainers has tested positive for the virus in the past three months, nearly all of them unvaccinated.