WALDO COUNTY, Maine — Editor's Note: The above video aired on Thursday, Oct. 22.
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. Waldo County has been reclassified from "green" to "yellow" in the update, citing climbing cases and the highest positivity rate across all Maine counties after being assessed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Maine CDC.
All other counties remain classified as green, the Maine DOE says. In last week's update, York County was moved back from yellow to green.
The state's evaluation shows in Waldo County, the number of new cases per 10,000 people in the last two weeks has climbed to 14.4, and the positivity rate is 1.4 percent, which is higher than all other counties in Maine.
The state says while there is currently no evidence of COVID-19 transmission or outbreaks identified in Waldo County schools, the state is closely monitoring the county in light of the outbreak investigation originally centered on Brooks Pentecostal Church in Brooks.
As of Friday, the number of COVID-19 cases linked to the Brooks church outbreak now totals 57, an increase of eight since Thursday's update. Three people have been hospitalized.
Individual cases associated with the church outbreak have been identified at four schools in Waldo County: Ames Elementary School in Searsmont, Captain Albert Stevens School in Belfast, Mount View Elementary School in Thorndike, and Lighthouse Christian Academy, a school affiliated with the 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.
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.