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Maine: Largest school district to keep masks; daily cases up

August 9, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s largest school district is planning to require universal masking for all students in the coming year.

Portland Public Schools also plan to make masking optional for vaccinated staff in indoor settings that only involve adults. Staff who are not vaccinated will be expected to wear a mask at all times, Superintendent Xavier Botana said in a letter to parents.

The Portland Board of Public Education is scheduled to vote on the rules on Aug. 17. The district also plans to perform pooled testing for coronavirus, and resume allowing parents and other visitors into school buildings.

Botana said in the letter to parents that the district is going back to full-time, in-person learning. School is set to begin on Aug. 31. His letter said “masking and our other health and safety protocols worked to help keep our schools safe” last year.

In other pandemic news in Maine: ___

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THE NUMBERS

The number of new cases of the coronavirus in the state continued to trend up while the number of deaths from the virus continued to trend down.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 61.29 new cases per day on July 24 to 120.43 new cases per day on Aug. 7. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine fell over the past two weeks, going from 2.14 deaths per day on July 24 to 0.14 deaths per day on Aug. 7.

The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that there have been more than 71,000 reported cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic. There have also been 901 deaths.

Maine vaccination rates remain high, however. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said Monday that 80% of adults in the state have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Nearly two thirds of the state is fully vaccinated, Mills said.

State officials have recommended people wear masks in areas of the state with high or substantial transmission of the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that included seven of the state’s 16 counties, including Cumberland and York, which make up almost 40% of the state’s population.

Cumberland County includes Portland, the state’s largest city.

“If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, I encourage you to do so today. With vaccines still only available for those 12 and older, we need to remember there are vulnerable populations in our community,” said Portland Mayor Kate Snyder in a statement.

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MAINE MEDICAL CENTER OUTBREAK

The Maine CDC has opened an investigation at Maine Medical Center, where officials said nine staff members in the emergency department tested positive for COVID-19.

Maine Medical is the largest hospital in the state. The positive tests were first reported to the state on Aug. 5. The hospital has since tested everyone in the department and has expanded testing to support staff, WCSH-TV reported.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the staff members were vaccinated against coronavirus.

The hospital has also contacted emergency room patients so they can get tested. Officials said none of the patients have tested positive so far.

The hospital announced a few days ago that it would limit visitation to one visitor daily starting Monday. It said the change was made because of the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.

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HOSPITAL RELIEF

Mills’ administration also said Monday that it is awarding $25 million in coronavirus relief money to 14 hospitals and 96 long-term care facilities in the state to help with the coronavirus pandemic. Heather Johnson, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, said the “funding recognizes the immediate needs of the health care industry and provides some financial relief for those who remain on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.”