Oxford County was given a yellow designation by state officials Friday, joining Androscoggin, Somerset, and York for increased level of community risk of COVID-19.

Gov. Janet Mills’ administration updated its color-coded health advisory system for schools Friday, which is designed to classify the relative risk of coronavirus transmission in each county.

Based on the newest numbers, Oxford County is now categorized as yellow due to the county’s positivity rate surpassing 6%. Franklin County is now designated as green, while Androscoggin County remains yellow.

Under the yellow designation, 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 cohorts, or other measures.

Oxford County saw 51 additional cases Thursday, the same day Maine experienced its highest single-day increase in new positive cases. The county added 18 cases Friday.

Maine Center for Disease Control spokesman Robert Long said Thursday that the increase in Oxford County’s case count reflects an increase in the number of cases at Pinnacle Health in Canton — 53 as of Thursday — and the reopening of an outbreak investigation at Guy Rowe School in Norway — 12 as of Thursday — but he said the “primary reason for the uptick in cases is ongoing community transmission.”

Friday’s announcement said Franklin County’s new case rate per 10,000 people has fallen below the state average of 41.1 cases per 10,000, allowing it to return to the green designation.

Hospitalizations also hit record highs Friday, with 164 COVID-19 patients in Maine hospitals.

According to numbers from the Maine CDC, there were 95 intensive care unit beds available Friday across all Maine hospitals, but in Lewiston, which has two hospitals and 36 ICU beds, that number is zero. On Thursday, there were three.

During his daily briefing Friday, CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah said the state has opened 14 new outbreak investigations since Thursday, included a new outbreak of eight cases tied to Market Square Health Care in South Paris.

One of the four deaths announced Friday was a woman in her 50s from Oxford County. Another two deaths were a man in his 90s and a woman in her 80s from Androscoggin County. Long said neither of the deaths is associated with a long-term care facility.

Shah said Friday’s seven-day positivity rate of 4.9% is the highest it’s been, and the rate has increased threefold in just 30 days.

“I fear that this sadly is our new normal, and I expect it to get worse,” he said.


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