Media Release: Mills Administration Updates COVID-19 School Health Advisory System  

Androscoggin County remains yellow; All other counties 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 to assist schools as they continue with their efforts to deliver instruction and support students safely.

Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) assessed COVID-19 data and trends for all counties and released the following designations:

  • YELLOW: Androscoggin County continues to have an elevated new case rate of 77 cases per 10,000 residents,  more than double the statewide average.
  • NOW GREEN: The new case rates in Kennebec, Oxford, and Somerset counties have fallen by at least 20 percent, and their positivity rates are below 5 percent.
  • All other counties remain green, including Franklin and York, which were closely monitored in the last update but have since shown improvements.

These designations are made out of an abundance of caution and for the consideration of school administrative units in their decisions to deliver instruction. 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 rate of new cases for school staff and students has remained steady at 46 per 10,000, about 40 percent lower than a new case rate of 78 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, when schools use proven health and safety protocols and resources.

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

Maine schools have been safely open since the fall by adhering to the six requirements for returning to in-person instruction and by following the 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.

The next update will be provided on May 21, 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.