REGION — Franklin County is following the state-wide trend of declining reported positive cases of COVID-19 with the Center of Disease Control (CDC) showing a seven-day count of 38 confirmed cases as of Feb. 11. The count shows a 38.71% drop in confirmed cases from the previous 7-day count.

According to the Maine CDC, as of Feb. 7 the town of Farmington has reported the highest number of cumulative probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Franklin County with 323 cases.

The federal CDC’s data provides county-wide confirmed cases across the country whereas Maine’s CDC provides zip-code specific data that combines both confirmed and probable cases throughout the state.

Recent outbreaks in Farmington have occurred at Orchard Park Rehabilitation and Living Center with 29 confirmed cases on Feb. 10.

As of Feb. 13, the University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) has reported a total of 20 positive cases since testing began for second semester.

“In terms of our positive cases, from the statistics shared in our weekly testing memos starting January 8, 2021, we can share that 10 on campus and 10 off campus UMF community members have tested positive this semester,” Christine Wilson, Vice President for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management, wrote in an email.

UMF is now in Phase 6 of its testing process which requires all students, staff and faculty who work and/or live on campus to be tested on a weekly basis.

Farmington will also benefit from the University of Maine System’s wastewater management program which has partnered with the town’s sewer plant to test sewage for COVID-19 fragments to track infection trends.

While no specific number of positive COVID-19 cases have been set by the federal level to constitute an outbreak, Maine’s CDC has determined three positive cases to indicate an outbreak at K-12 schools.

According to the state’s CDC Standard Operating Procedure, an outbreak is declared when there are “3 or more confirmed cases from different households within 14 days.”

Regional School Unit 9 has reported a total of 40 positive COVID-19 cases during the 2020-21 school year, according to the district’s website.

The Maine CDC shows the town of Jay as recording the second highest cumulative probable and confirmed cases in the county with 150 cases, and Wilton shows a total of 78 cases.

Rangeley, Kingfield, Strong, Phillips and New Sharon have all reported a total of 20-49 cumulative probable and confirmed cases.

Eustis, Stratton, Temple, New Vineyard and Weld each have seen 6-19 cumulative probable and confirmed cases as of Feb. 7.

Franklin County reported the first confirmed case of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 in Maine on Feb. 10. The variant was first detected in the United Kingdom and is now present in 34 states. Florida and California are currently reporting the highest numbers of the variant with more than 150 cases.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry recently hosted the webinar Dispelling Misinformation about the COVID-19 Vaccine. During the webinar, Microbiologist Lisa Morici from Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans shared information about the B.1.1.7 variant.

“We know that this virus is more highly transmissible than the original virus and so that’s an important point that we all still need to keep wearing masks,” Morici said at the Feb. 12 webinar. “It’s not more deadly, but if it’s more transmissible, it’s going to infect more people and it’s going to cause more hospitalizations and deaths, but the mutation itself is not making it more deadly.”

Morici added that vaccinations are already being modified to ensure high efficacy rates for variants B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1.  The CDC is reporting success with current vaccines against these COVID-19 variants.

“So far, studies suggest that antibodies generated through vaccination with currently authorized vaccines recognize these variants. This is being closely investigated and more studies are underway,” the CDC website states.

Maine has administered 255,849 doses of the coronavirus vaccine as of Feb. 16 with 75,384 people receiving their second dose according to maine.gov’s vaccination dashboard. Those fully vaccinated in Maine represent 5.61% of the state’s population.

In Franklin County, 936 people have received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine which represents 3.10% of the county’s population.

Morici said that to successfully block the spread of COVID-19, 60% of the U.S. population will need to be vaccinated. This percentage includes the consideration that about 20% of the country’s population is naturally immune.

“If we just say that we need 80% of the population to achieve herd immunity and 20% are already immune, we need 60% more Americans to become immune to get there,” Morici said.

In order to reach 60% of the population, 198 million people will need to be vaccinated in the United States. As of Feb. 16, the CDC reported that 15,471,536 people in the U.S. have received both doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

With the coronavirus posing a 1-2% death rate, Morici said that the U.S. will experience about two to four million additional deaths without herd immunity.

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