Nurses inside the Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center Credit: Courtesy of Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center

Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center set another record for the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations last weekend before the number of patients dropped by about a fifth in the subsequent five days.

The record of 59 COVID-19 patients at the Bangor hospital on Saturday eclipsed a previous record of 58 from two days earlier. As of Thursday, EMMC had 47 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 12 fewer than the record level.

The number of hospitalizations recently at the Bangor hospital has surpassed the number of hospitalizations from the last surge of COVID-19 cases this past winter. The previous record of  55 COVID-19 patients was set  on Dec. 31, 2020.

Since then, the contagious delta variant has hit rural Maine hard, where vaccination rates are lower than in the more populated areas of Maine that were the epicenters of coronavirus cases in the early stages of the pandemic.

The vast majority of EMMC’s COVID-19 patients have been unvaccinated, and many have come from those rural communities with lower vaccination rates.

Penobscot County has been hit particularly hard by the delta variant, in contrast to earlier virus surges. Its rate of new cases over the past two weeks was more than double the statewide rate. Only one county, neighboring Piscataquis, had a higher rate of new cases, according to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Some 8.6 percent of virus tests in Penobscot County have come back positive over the past two weeks, an indicator of how widely the virus is circulating. The statewide positivity rate was 5 percent for that same period. In Piscataquis, it was 11.5 percent.

Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.