In this March 3, 2021, file photo, senior citizens leave a COVID-19 vaccination site inside a former department store in Sanford. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Good morning from Augusta. The Legislature’s watchdog committee will be meeting at 10 a.m. to decide how it should broaden its review of Maine’s child welfare system.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “She’s a crackerjack and a ball of fire,” R. Christopher Almy, the former Penobscot County district attorney, said of Darcie McElwee, who was nominated Tuesday to serve as Maine’s top federal prosecutor. “She always does the right thing. She’s all about being fair and being tough.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

COVID-19 cases among fully vaccinated people will rise as inoculation rates climb and a variant remains prevalent, but the vaccines are working well. The COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. are remarkably effective, with clinical trials suggesting the Pfizer and Moderna shots reduce a person’s likelihood of getting COVID-19 by more than 90 percent. 

Those trials were conducted prior to the emergence of several new variants, but more recent studies suggest the vaccines’ effectiveness has waned only slightly, if at all. But because fully vaccinated people sometimes still contract the virus in rare “breakthrough” cases that are generating much of the attention now around the pandemic, the share of infections among fully vaccinated people will continue to increase as long as there is still community transmission.

An example commonly cited by statisticians goes like this: Imagine a town with 100 people, 98 of whom are fully vaccinated, two of whom are not. Two people test positive for the virus — one vaccinated person and one unvaccinated person. Officially, that would mean half the people who tested positive in the town were vaccinated. But in practice, it also means that the unvaccinated people had a 50 percent chance of testing positive while the vaccinated people had roughly a 1 percent chance of testing positive.

That is an extreme example, but a similar concept applies in Maine as more than 80 percent of adults here have now had at least one vaccine dose and nearly three-quarters are fully vaccinated, according to federal data.

The odds are still long for a vaccinated Mainer to get COVID-19. There have been 712 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Maine among fully vaccinated people, according to data the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention released last week. That might be an undercount, as it takes time to investigate cases and determine vaccine status, but it is out of a group of roughly 850,000 fully vaccinated people, putting the chances of a fully vaccinated person testing positive here at around 1 in 1,200.

At the same time, 36,785 Mainers have tested positive since late January, when the first people here became fully vaccinated. That is out of a pool of more than 1.3 million people who were unvaccinated at some point this spring, meaning an individual’s probability of testing positive while not fully vaccinated in Maine this year is something closer to 1 in 36.

Those ratios are not a perfect representation of each individual’s risk of contracting the virus — we know that elderly and immunocompromised people seem to be at higher risk of falling ill with COVID-19 and that vaccines may be less effective for them. The more transmissible delta variant makes vaccinated and unvaccinated people more likely to catch the virus, but the risks remain much more severe for unvaccinated people.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Judge rules that Maine had no authority to lease public land for CMP corridor,” Michael Shepherd, Bangor Daily News: “[Maine Superior Court judge Michaela] Murphy found that the Bureau of Parks and Lands had no authority to enter either lease because the state must make a public determination of whether the leases in question fit that constitutional standard and allow the Legislature to exercise its discretion. That did not happen in either case, nor did the administrations ask lawmakers to weigh in.”

The judge is not exactly ordering the state to ask for legislative approval, but that could be the end result and it would be bad for corridor backers. Murphy did not hold back in her ruling, but the process she proposes for remedying the situation is complicated. She said the state must lay out in a public document whether the lease reduces or substantially alters public lands. That would allow the Legislature to weigh in on the lease if it wants. Since approval there would require two-thirds votes in both chambers and majorities in both agreed to a resolution in July that the Legislature should be consulted, it would be a hard vote for the state to win.

— “Janet Mills considers vaccine mandate for health care workers after 2 hospital outbreaks,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The two outbreaks come as Maine continues to see milestones in vaccinations, with 80 percent of adults having gotten at least one shot. But the more transmissible delta variant is leading to sharp rises in cases in Maine and nationwide. Despite the state’s high vaccination rate, about 21 percent of hospital workers here are unvaccinated, according to state data.”

— “Mainers expected to see slower mail under Postal Service cost-cutting plan,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “The extended time period is set to go into effect in October after the Postal Service’s board of governors approved the plan last week. The agency argued that current standards require it to run costly trips on low-volume routes and use air transportation too often. Allowing more time for the delivery of First-Class mail would lead to savings of about $170 million per year, it argued, out of an overall operating budget of around $80 billion.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...