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

For Immediate Release
Contact:  Kelli Deveaux, Director of Communications

All counties remain green; Androscoggin and Oxford counties closely monitored

AUGUSTA — The Mills Administration today released an update to its color-coded Health Advisory System that classifies counties’ relative risk of COVID-19 transmission to assist schools as they continue with their efforts to deliver instruction and support students safely.

ALL COUNTIES GREEN, although Androscoggin and Oxford counties will be closely monitored. Statewide, both new case rates and positivity rates have increased in the last two weeks, but for the purpose of in-person learning, all counties remain within the green categorization. Androscoggin County has experienced a significant increase in its two-week new case rate, now 51.4 per 10,000, due in part to the outbreak at Bates College. Oxford County’s positivity rate has risen to 6.1 percent and its new case rate to 40.5 per 10,000. As such, trends in these counties will be closely monitored.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (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 rate of new cases for school staff and students is 37 per 10,000, about 25 percent lower than a new case rate of 50 per 10,000 for the general population.  This continues to demonstrate that in-person learning in schools that follow public health precautions can be conducted safely, without increased transmission of COVID-19, and supports schools’ adherence to the six requirements for returning to in-person instruction and protocols for identifying close contacts that are found in the Standard Operating Procedure for a positive case in schools, regardless of their county color designation.

These designations are provided for the consideration of school administrative units in their decisions on how best to safely deliver instruction.

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 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 categorizations are defined as follows:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • RED: Categorization as “red” suggests that the county has a high risk of COVID-19 spread and that in-person instruction is not advisable.

The next update will be provided on April 23, 2021. Updating this advisory on a two-week basis aligns with the incubation period for COVID-19 and allows for greater stability in the trend data for small counties.