The Rockland wastewater treatment plant will be one of 20 to be tested by the state to determine the extent of COVID-19 in the community.

Rockland Wastewater Superintendent Terry Pinto said Thursday, Jan. 20 that the preparation for the testing was in the works.

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said hospitalizations and deaths numbers are better at assessing the pandemic right now rather than case counts, and announced the state will ramp up wastewater testing for COVID-19, which provides a better real-time look at transmission at a community level. The CDC is expanding testing to about 20 wastewater systems across the state in the coming weeks, and will make that data publicly available on its website.

Shah said Wednesday the “current tsunami of omicron cases” has overwhelmed the agency’s ability to determine which tests are confirmed as new cases and which are retests of infected people.

There were 62 additional COVID-19 cases reported in Knox County in the past day, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday, Jan. 21.

Since the pandemic began, 3,873 Knox County residents have been diagnosed with the virus, 69 have been admitted to hospitals, and 21 have died.

Statewide, an additional 1,367 cases were reported in the past day. There were two additional deaths reported statewide Jan. 21, increasing the number to 1,693.

There were 15 additional people statewide admitted to hospitals in Maine with COVID-19 in the past day, increasing that number to 3,775 since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Hospitalizations of Maine residents with the virus is showing another uptick, as the CDC reports 412 Mainers hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those 412 in the hospital, 101 are in critical care units and 52 on respirators. Fifty-nine critical care beds are available in Maine. The record was 436 people in the hospital at the same time due to the virus.

Seventy percent of hospitalized patients are people who have not been vaccinated, and 90 percent of people in critical care units are unvaccinated.

Eighty-one percent of the eligible population in Knox County has been fully vaccinated. Statewide, 76 percent of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated, ranging from a low of 62 percent in Somerset County to 87 percent in Cumberland County.

Medical leaders across the state continue to say the spread is being fueled by people who have not been vaccinated.

Health officials continue to urge people to wear masks in indoor public places and to get vaccinated, including booster shots. Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said surgical masks, N95s and KN95s are more suitable for protection against the more transmissible Omicron variant of the virus than plain cloth masks.