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. Citing tripled case and positivity rates, the DOE has reclassified Androscoggin County from green to yellow, joining Knox, Franklin, Somerset, and Washington counties with a yellow designation.
All other counties remain "green," but the DOE says it's closely monitoring Cumberland, Hancock, York, and Kennebec counties, which are experiencing "notable increases in the new case rate."
Based on the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine Center for Disease Control's (CDC) assessment, Androscoggin County's 14-day new case rate, as well as the positivity rate, tripled in the last week, from 6.6 to 20.7 new cases per 10,000 and 0.8 percent to 2.4 percent.
During the past two weeks, the rate of new cases in Somerset, Washington, Knox, and Franklin counties has continued to increase, and the positivity rate has increased in all but Somerset County. Somerset County continues to have the highest positivity rate of all Maine counties, at 4.6 percent.
Maine DHHS and Maine CDC continue to review evidence that indicates lower transmission of COVID-19 in schools compared to the general population. Over the last 30 days, the new case rate in Maine schools, including both students and staff, was 8.8 cases per 10,000. That compares to 19.9 cases per 10,000 in Maine overall.
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.
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.