Oxford Hills can thank locals who have produced thousands of masks for their communities for the region’s low transmission rates of COVID-19. Supplied photo

NORWAY — As York county to the south and Oxford county communities clustered around Rumford to the north are seeing recent surges of COVID-19, Oxford Hills has been able to maintain a low level of virus spread over the summer and into fall.

As of Sept. 28, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported that Buckfield, Hebron, Waterford and West Paris have seen no new cases to fewer than four new cases since Jun. 15.

Paris, Norway and Oxford, all of which had logged fewer than five cases at the start of summer, currently stand at seven, eight and eight respectively.

Harrison, which is part of the Oxford Hills School District 17 but located in Cumberland county shows a cumulative total of nine cases, the highest of any community in the school district.

School officials in SAD 17 are on high alert however. A youth soccer coach in Oxford Hills Athletic Boosters program was diagnosed with the virus last week. Several third and fourth graders who played in a game he coached are now in quarantine.

With the SAD 17 School Board approving a fall sports season just last week, the athletics schedule has stalled before it could even get underway.


The door allowing the virus into the River Valley area of Oxford county seems to have cracked open in late August after a Rumford police officer tested positive for COVID-19. He recovered and stayed in quarantine until Sept. 5. Soon after that new cases began being detected at ND Paper mill – four cases reported on Sept. 15 and another 12 within two days. As of Sept. 28, 21 positive cases have been connected to the outbreak at the paper mill. One employee of ND Paper has died with the virus.

The River Valley communities surrounding the mill account for most of the surge in cases in Oxford county. Rumford, Mexico, Roxbury, Dixfield and Peru have a current cumulative total of 50 or more. In mid-June, four of those five towns had no cases, with only Dixfield reporting between one and five.

The increase of COVID-19 in northeast Oxford county led to Governor Janet Mills announcing a downgrade of the safety level from green to yellow, meaning that school districts should shift to hybrid learning to ensure fewer students are in their buildings at a time. RSU 10 and RSU 56 in the River Valley had already closed schools at different intervals to deal with positive cases in their districts since most students returned to school on Sept. 8.

Following the governor’s announcement, SAD 17 Oxford Hills immediately began making plans to put its eight elementary schools and Oxford Hills Middle School in distance learning mode. Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School was already instituting remote learning for most of its 1,000 students.

Despite the recent positive COVID-19 case increase to Oxford county, the number of active cases stands at the same number as in mid-June: 37.

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