Maine may be facing 'syndemic,' top health official says

Maine may be facing two concurrent COVID-19 epidemics — known as a "syndemic" — among older adults and young people that are driving up cases in the state, Maine's top health official told local CBS affiliate WABI April 21.

Like many states, Maine prioritized vaccinating older residents, most of whom are not  interacting with the state's younger population. While the state saw a drop in cases among those 60 and older starting in January, cases among younger groups have been rising since February, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah, MD, tweeted April 22.

"The fact that they've been vaccinated [residents over 60] doesn't really help slow transmission among younger Mainers who are just now getting their vaccination numbers up," Dr. Shah told WABI. "When you couple that sort of syndemic phenomenon with variants, which are more contagious, that is my hypothesis right now as to why our case numbers are high, and maybe even staying high, and maybe even going higher."

As of April 21, the state's seven-day average of new cases was 422.9, state data shows. This figure had fallen steeply after the winter surge but started to rise again in mid-February and now matches numbers seen in mid-December of last year. 

Residents in their 20s and 30s currently make up 33.24 percent of the state's cases, while people age 60 and older account for 21 percent of cases, according to state data.

Dr. Shah said Maine's high testing volumes could also play a role in the rising case counts. The state is currently testing 870 people per 100,000, Dr. Shah told WABI

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