MEDIA RELEASE: Mills Administration Updates COVID-19 School Health Advisory System 12-4-20

Oxford joins Androscoggin, Somerset, and York counties in yellow designation; Penobscot County closely monitored in green

AUGUSTA — The Mills Administration today released an update to its color-coded Health Advisory System that classifies counties’ relative risk of COVID-19 transmission by color and is provided to assist schools as they continue with their plans to deliver instruction and support students safely this fall. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) assessed the data and trends for all counties.

Based on this assessment, Oxford County is now categorized as yellow, joining Androscoggin, Somerset and York counties, which were designated previously. Franklin and Washington Counties are now designated as green, along with all other counties.

  • NOW YELLOW: Oxford County’s positivity rate has risen to 6.1 percent.
  • REMAIN YELLOW: Androscoggin, Somerset and York counties each have a two-week positivity rate that is greater than 4 percent.
  • NOW GREEN: Franklin and Washington counties’ new case rates per 10,000 people have fallen below the state average of 41.1 cases per 10,000.
  • CLOSELY MONITORED: Penobscot County’s new case rate per 10,000 people is increasing, and will continue to be closely monitored.

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 15.5 cases per 10,000 people. That compares to, as noted above, 41.1 cases per 10,000 in Maine overall. COVID-19 cases and outbreaks associated with Maine schools are publicly reported on the Maine DOE website. This dashboard is updated every Tuesday and Thursday, and provides a snapshot of cases reported in the past thirty days.

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.

These designations are made out of an abundance of caution and for the consideration of school administrative units in their decisions to deliver instruction.

It is essential that school districts 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 designation.

The Health Advisory System categorizations are defined as follows:

  • RED: Categorization as “red” suggests that the county has a high risk of COVID-19 spread and that in-person instruction is not advisable.
  • YELLOW: Categorization as “yellow” suggests that that the county has an elevated risk of COVID-19 spread and that schools may consider additional precautions and/or hybrid instructional models to reduce the number of people in schools and classrooms at any one time.
  • GREEN: Categorization as “green” suggests that the county has a relatively low risk of COVID-19 spread and that schools may consider in-person instruction, as long as they are able to implement the required health and safety measures.  Schools in a “green” county may need to use hybrid instruction models if there is insufficient capacity or other factors (facilities, staffing, geography/transportation, etc.) that may prevent full implementation of the health and safety requirements.

The county-level assessments are based on both quantitative and qualitative data, including but not limited to recent case rates, positivity rates, and syndromic data (e.g., symptoms of influenza or COVID-19). Those data are publicly posted every week on the Maine CDC website. DHHS and Maine CDC also consider qualitative factors, such as the presence of outbreaks that may potentially affect school-age children.

The Health Advisory System reflects ongoing analysis of evolving data, and serves as one piece of information that school and district leaders can use to make decisions about how to deliver education during the school year. The qualitative and quantitative considerations and data used by the CDC in determining community transmission risk levels for schools can be located here: How County Risk Levels for Maine Schools are Determined

The Health Advisory System can be found on the Maine DOE website in Part I of the Framework for Reopening Schools and Returning to In-Person Classroom Instruction

The next update is scheduled for Dec. 11, 2020.