Northern Light Health Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor is seen in this August file photo. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The number of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care in Maine surged Friday, tying a record for the most since the start of the pandemic nearly 18 months ago.

As of Friday, 71 patients with COVID-19 were in critical care beds in Maine, according to state data. That was up from 59 on Thursday and equals a record set on Jan. 20, amid the state’s winter COVID-19 surge. Thirty-one patients are on a ventilator, the second-highest single-day total in Maine. The problem is being driven by the more contagious delta variant and normally heavy summer patient counts.

It comes a day after Maine hospitals warned about a shortage of ICU beds. The Bangor area has been especially hard-hit. On Friday, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center had 18 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units. The Bangor hospital has two-thirds the total beds of Maine Medical Center in Portland, which had only 16 COVID-19 patients in the ICU.

That is a possible reflection of higher transmission as Piscataquis, Penobscot and Waldo counties lead the state in case rates. Larger hospitals around the state were “tight” on ICU beds as of Friday, said Steve Michaud, the president of the Maine Hospital Association. But things were “a bit more of a mess” in the Bangor region, he said.

There were 39 open ICU beds across the state on Friday, according to Maine Center for Disease Control Director Nirav Shah. That was seven more than on Thursday, when only about 10 percent of those beds were unoccupied. Open beds look to be scattered across the state.

On Friday, 15 of 16 beds were full at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, where only two of those patients were being treated for COVID-19 and the rest for other problems.

Overall hospitalizations have surged in Maine with the rapid spread of the delta variant. A greater surge of patients are also ending up in the ICU due to the more severe strain. The vast majority of patients hospitalized with the virus — and nearly all of those requiring critical care — are unvaccinated, hospital leaders said.

As of Thursday, 133 patients were hospitalized statewide with COVID-19, according to the Maine CDC, up from a figure which was as low as 23 in early July. That figure is far below the January peak of 207, but hospitals were barring many elective procedures at that time in preparation for surges. Most have turned back to relatively normal operations at this point.

BDN writer David Marino Jr. contributed to this report.

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...