Rhonda Field, environmental services employee at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, screens center spokesman Steve Costello on Aug. 13 upon entering the hospital. All staff, patients and visitors are screened for COVID-19 symptoms each time they enter the building. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

In July, there were days when Androscoggin County didn’t see a single new case of COVID-19.

Not anymore.

On Friday, as the state reported 665 new cases and three more deaths, Androscoggin County registered new case levels not seen since the height of the pandemic last winter.

To get a sense of how fast COVID-19 is spreading in the county, consider this: the last Friday of August and the first Friday of September saw more new cases of the deadly disease than all the previous dozen Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Or to look at it another way: All the Fridays in June saw 31 new cases. In July, there were a total of 12 Friday cases reported. August Fridays added 33 new cases to the tally.

The one Friday so far in September had 46 cases.

That means the one-day total Friday was more than the total for the first 10 Fridays after Memorial Day all lumped together.

In short, the number of cases in Androscoggin County is spiking upward, part of an alarming statewide trend that public health officials warn could pose serious risks for anyone who is not vaccinated.

People who have not been jabbed are eight times as likely to wind up in the hospital as those who are vaccinated, said Dr Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control.

They’re more likely to catch, spread and die from the disease than those who are vaccinated, health experts say.

Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said last week that the delta variant of the coronavirus that first appeared in China in late 2019 “is driving widespread community transmission among unvaccinated individuals throughout Maine.”

Health officials said their advice for avoiding a COVID infection remains the same as it has been for months: maintain social distances with anyone you can, wear masks when you are inside public spaces or in crowds outside and, most important, get vaccinated.

Shah said Friday that two-thirds of eligible Mainers are now fully vaccinated.

“This makes Maine one of the most vaccinated states in one of the more vaccinated countries, putting it among the most vaccinated places on the planet,” he said.

But COVID-19 cases are still spreading, mostly among those who are not vaccinated.

Lewiston’s schools have already seen the impact, with cases at McMahon and Connors elementary schools. The one at Connors, detailed by the district late Thursday, said 17 students and a staff member must quarantine until Sept. 13 after being in close contact with someone who tested positive for the disease.

Bates College has eight students, all of them vaccinated, who have COVID-19 and two staff members. Its staff is not required to have vaccinations.

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