Maine's health leaders gathered together on Thursday, encouraging residents to return to personal pandemic protocols.

Members of Northern Light Health, MaineHealth, Central Maine Healthcare, and MaineGeneral Health held a joint media conference this week, to talk about the rising cases of COVID-19 statewide.

The Delta variant is causing the case numbers to go up, including an increase in hospitalizations, which are mostly of non-vaccinated people. They say the most effective deterrent to the virus is still getting vaccinated against COVID-19. But even vaccinated people can contract this variant, as was demonstrated by U.S. Senator Angus King. The advantage for vaccinated people is that they will likely experience less severe symptoms, as opposed to those who have not had the shots.

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But medical experts say that's not enough. More steps need to be taken to stop the spread of the virus and get it under control. That starts with people returning to the protocols put in place in the early days of the pandemic. Residents are encouraged to return to wearing masks when around others, socially distancing whenever possible, and washing their hands frequently and. In addition, people should keep track of their own health and stay home when they're feeling unwell.

The latest COVID statistics show 391 new cases of COVID-19 statewide. There are currently 133 people hospitalized with the virus, with 59 of those people in critical care, and 27 on ventilators. Hospitals are already facing staffing challenges due, in part, to employees reevaluating their career choice after months of dealing with the pandemic, and still others who disagree with the Governor's mask mandate for healthcare workers.

Anyone who is not yet vaccinated is urged to do so as soon as possible. Vaccination locations can be found on the state of Maine website. As of August 25, 70.78% of all eligible Mainers have received their second dose of the vaccine.

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