Maine urges caution at schools as COVID-19 spreads in state
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine officials are recommending caution at more schools in the state on Friday because of the rise in coronavirus cases.
The state uses a color-coded system to categorize the level of precaution schools should use. The administration of Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said it’s adding schools in Knox County and Franklin County to the “yellow” category, which is an intermediate level.
Those counties join Somerset and Washington counties in the yellow category. All other counties in the state are in the “green” category, which is the lowest level, though officials said they’re closely monitoring schools in Waldo and Kennebec counties.
The state recommends that schools located in counties in the yellow category consider hybrid instruction models to reduce the number of people in schools and classrooms. The change in category for some schools came as cases surged around the state.
“This is all the more reason that I really am urging folks to do the right thing, do the common sense thing, and wear a face covering,” Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said.
The Mills administration said some community sports competition among teams from the same geographic area can begin on Jan. 11.
In other news related to the pandemic in Maine:
Maine saw the rolling average of daily new cases more than triple in the past week.
The 7-day rolling average of new daily cases rose from 32 new cases per day on Oct. 22 to 113 new cases per day on Nov. 5.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday the total number of coronavirus cases reported in Maine was now over 7,400.
The state reported that the number of deaths held at 150.
The mayor of Maine’s largest city said the governor was right to expand the mask mandate in the state.
Maine is dealing with increasing spread of coronavirus after several months of keeping the virus largely in check. Maine Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order on Thursday that required people in the state to wear a mask in public settings, regardless of their ability to maintain social distance.
Portland Mayor Kate Snyder, a Democrat like Mills, said the move is necessary. Portland is in Cumberland County, which has by far the largest share of Maine’s coronavirus cases.
“The governor’s order reflects the severity of the current spread in Maine and wearing a mask in public settings, regardless of the ability to maintain physical distance, is something we can all do to contribute to the health of our community,” Snyder said.
Republicans in Maine have criticized the mandate. Maine Republican Party Chair Demi Kouzounas said Mills “has placed overburdensome restrictions on the people of Maine and our businesses with no clear direction.”