Maine National Guard Completes Deployment Supporting Hospitals During the Delta and Omicron COVID-19 Surge

February 25, 2022

Today marks the end of Governor Mills’ temporary deployment of the Maine National Guard to hospitals to provide crucial non-clinical staff support during the most intense period of the COVID-19 pandemic to date. The entire Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) COVID-19 team is grateful for their service.

On December 8, 2021, when it became apparent that the Delta variant would continue to increase serious illness from COVID-19, the Governor activated the National Guard to help alleviate capacity constraints at hospitals and maintain access to inpatient health care services for Maine people amid a sustained surge of COVID-19. On January 11, 2022, the day after the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients exceeded 400 for the first time during the pandemic, the Governor deployed additional members of the Guard to support hospitals.

A total of 230 members of the Maine National Guard were deployed to Maine hospitals to help maintain critical care. They served at 16 hospitals, nearly half of all hospitals in Maine. They performed several jobs, such as helping to administer monoclonal antibody treatments, caring for people convalescing from COVID-19 in special units, and providing nutrition and other supports for hospital staff who  have been exhausted by the strain of the long-running pandemic. Hospitals and their staff uniformly reported that the support came at a crucial time, when high transmission was causing both increased demand for hospital care and more staff out with COVID-19 or caring for family members with the disease.

Maine also secured Federal clinical staff to complement the non-clinical work of the Maine National Guard in hospitals. This included:

  • 15 clinicians from the National Disaster Medical Team deployed to Maine Medical Center from December 11 to December 24;
  • 20 clinicians from the Department of Defense deployed to Central Maine Medical Center from February 1 to February 25;
  • 40 clinicians from the Department of Defense deployed to Eastern Maine Medical Center from to February 18 to mid-March.
  • 18 paramedics with 9 ambulances deployed to hospitals across Maine mostly from December 28, 2021 to March 27.

The Maine Responds Emergency Health Volunteer System that organizes health care, public health, and volunteers to respond to emergency situations also engaged 50 clinicians in Maine to serve in hospitals during the surge and help administer therapeutic treatment for COVID-19 in December 2021.

These extra staff were accompanied by other types of assistance to hospitals to manage the increase of COVID-19 patients, including providing additional funding and flexibility for acute-care hospitals to use Critical Access Hospitals to alleviate capacity constraints. Since the start of the pandemic, in addition to at least $490 million directly from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services through the Provider Relief Fund, Maine DHHS took action to secure over $50 million for hospitals. The State provided an immediate infusion of funding to hospitals totaling $10 million early in the pandemic. In December 2020, the State also established the Maine Health Care Financial Relief Grant Program and awarded $2.2 million to hospitals. In August 2021, the State awarded Maine hospitals $12.5 million which, like the Relief Grants, was funded from the Coronavirus Relief Fund. In September 2021, DHHS provided hospitals a $23 million COVID-19 supplemental payment proposed and passed in the Biennial Budget. In 2020 and 2021, DHHS also passed through new federal grant funding to hospitals, including the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP) grants totaling $6.2 million.

On the day of the Governor’s activation of the Guard, 117 Maine residents were in critical care with 60 on ventilators. This peaked at 133 people in critical care on December 19 and 68 on ventilators for several days in December. With the Omicron surge in January, these numbers declined but remained high until the end of the month. Today, on the last day of the deployment, 39 people are in critical care with 14 on ventilators with COVID-19. These numbers have not been this low since August 2021.

The Maine National Guard is a part time military force of nearly 3,000 men and women who serve their communities, state, and nation. More than 100 National Guardsmen have also assisted in supporting COVID-19 response outside of hospitals. This includes missions to inventory and deliver personal protective equipment (PPE), testing supplies, and vaccines; staff testing centers and vaccine clinics; and support case investigation and laboratory testing.