Breaking News
More () »

York County schools moved to 'yellow' designation amid jail outbreak

The Maine DOE was evaluating York and Penobscot counties "due to recent, concerning trends," but says Penobscot remains "green" at this time.

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is now designating schools in York County as "yellow" rather than "green" amid the coronavirus outbreak at the York County Jail.

The designations are provided by the State to assist schools as they continue with their plans to deliver instruction and support students safely this fall. When the color-coded guidance was first released at the end of July, all 16 counties in Maine were classified as "green"—giving schools the initial go-ahead for in-person instruction. 

The guidance is updated every two weeks, and this is the first instance a county has been moved out of the "green" classification, though many districts have opted for a hybrid model despite the full go-ahead. 

"This change in classification is made out of an abundance of caution and for the consideration of school administrative units in York County in their decisions to deliver instruction," Maine DOE said in a release. 

Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine CDC reassessed both York and Penobscot counties one week early "due to recent, concerning trends," the Department explained, but says Penobscot County remains green at this time, based on their assessment.

RELATED: All 16 Maine counties get initial go-ahead for in-person instruction in schools

At the York County Jail, there are 72 cases of COVID-19 as of Friday. 

Of the 72 cases, 46 are among inmates, 18 are among staff—16 corrections officers and two administrators—one is an outside vendor, and 17 cases are among affected household members of people who work in the building. 

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said a staff member of the York County Jail attended the wedding and reception in Millinocket. According to Dr. Shah, that staff member was one of the first confirmed cases at the jail.

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.

All York County school districts have already planned to start the school year under a locally developed hybrid model to ensure they are able to meet the six required health and safety measures for safely returning to in-person instruction. 

Under the “yellow” designation, which indicates an increased (moderate) level of community risk, schools may consider additional precautions, such as limiting numbers of people in school buildings at the same time, suspending 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.

"It is essential that school districts in York County, and across the State of Maine, continue to implement plans that adhere to the six requirements for returning to in-person instruction, regardless of their county’s red, yellow, or green designation," Maine DOE says. 

  1. Symptom Screening at Home Before Coming to School (for all Staff and Students) 
  2. Physical Distancing and Facilities
  3. Masks/Face Coverings
  4. Hand Hygiene
  5. Personal Protective Equipment
  6. Return to School after illness

On Thursday, an Auburn Middle School employee tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Auburn superintendent. And earlier this week, RSU 74 announced it would delay the start of school after a student tested positive.  

RELATED: Auburn Middle School employee tests positive for COVID-19

RELATED: Back to School: Every Maine school district's reopening plan, organized by county

The Maine DOE will update its guidance every other Friday based on evolving data. The next update is scheduled for Sept. 11 at 12 p.m. 

As of Friday in Maine, 134 Mainers have died out of 4,632 total COVID-19 cases. 4,165 of these cases are confirmed by test and 468 are probable. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out