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UPDATE: Three Maine counties categorized 'yellow' in latest school designations

Somerset County and Washington County now join Waldo County as "yellow." All other counties remain "green."

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Education (DOE) on Friday released its updated color-coded classifications for Maine counties, which shows the relative risk of COVID-19 transmission. Somerset County and Washington County have been reclassified from "green" to "yellow" in the update, citing an increase in cases and positivity rates in both counties. Waldo County also remains "yellow" and all other counties remain "green."

The color designations are based on an assessment of data and trends by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC).

"In Somerset County, both the positivity rate and the rate of new cases per 10,000 people have risen over the previous 14-day period. In Washington County, the site of the Second Baptist Church outbreak, the new two-week, population-adjusted case rate is four times higher than it was last week," the DOE said in a press release. "Waldo County continues to have Maine’s highest per county positivity rate at 3.0% and new case rate of 17.4%. No outbreaks have been identified in Waldo or Washington county schools at this time."

RELATED: 60 coronavirus cases now associated with outbreak linked to Waldo County church

A "yellow" designation indicates a moderate level of community risk. With the designation, the Maine DOE asks schools to consider additional precautions, such as limiting numbers of people in school buildings at the same time, suspending all extracurricular or co-curricular activities including competitions between schools, limiting interaction through cohorting, or other measures based on the unique needs of each school community.

The color-coded system was implemented at the end of July to help give schools guidance on how to safely restart school amid the pandemic. All 16 counties got the initial go-ahead from the State, all receiving a "green" designation, though many districts opted for a hybrid model. 

RELATED: 'This is serious': CDC Director Dr. Shah after Maine coronavirus, COVID-19 cases surge by more than 100 in last 24 hours

Here's how the classifications work:

  • Green: relatively low risk of COVID-19 spread. Schools can consider in-person instruction with required health and safety measures.
  • Yellow: elevated risk of COVID-19 spread. Schools should consider hybrid instructional models to try to limit the number of people in classrooms at the same time.
  • Red: high risk of COVID-19 spread. In-person instruction is not advised.

The DOE said these designations are made out of an abundance of caution and for the consideration of school administrative units in their decisions to deliver instruction.

RELATED: US average daily coronavirus cases rising to 74,000