Two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday, Maine is grappling with an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, fueled by the persistent delta variant.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported 2,148 new coronavirus cases and eight additional deaths. It was the first time during the pandemic that the state reported over 2,000 cases in a single day and the third straight day of new records after 1,275 cases on Wednesday and 1,460 on Thursday.

The seven-day average for new cases increased to 962, which is the highest since the pandemic began. Maine’s COVID-19 death toll has risen to 1,365.

Aroostook County recorded another 276 positive cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the active caseload in the County to an estimated 1,095. One of Friday's reported COVID-related deaths was an Aroostook County resident. Androscoggin, Cumberland, Kennebec and Oxford counties also recorded fatal cases.

COVID hospitalizations at record level this week in Maine

As of Thursday, 373 people were being treated in hospital for the disease, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control.  Of those, a record 118 patients are in intensive care units, while 60 are on ventilators. There are now only 34 ICU beds available statewide.

Vaccines reduce chance of hospitalization and severity of illness

State health officials say roughly two-thirds of people hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated. The percentage is even higher for those in intensive care units.

Maine’s vaccination rate is one of the highest in the U.S., with 69.6% of residents fully vaccinated against the deadly virus. But the rate varies greatly from county to county. Cumberland County’s vaccination rate is nearing 80% of the total population, while some rural Maine counties are still below 60%.

Vaccines are available free of charge at numerous sites across the state. For more information on vaccine clinics near you, click this link.

Answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

Keep reading to discover answers to 25 common COVID-19 vaccine questions.