NORWAY — COVID rates in Oxford County nearly quadrupled from July to August. Two weeks into September and the numbers are still climbing.

As vaccinations became available last spring, infection rates dropped. In April 708 cases were reported. By July that number dropped to just 50.

However, restrictions on public gatherings and social distancing were lifted, and with the delta variant making its way across the country, in August 188 cases were reported. As of Tuesday, there have been 137 reported cases this month. There have been no deaths in Oxford County since July 7.

Most reported deaths have been attributed to long-term care facilities which saw spikes starting late last fall, despite the strict lock-down protocols put in place. Almost 92% of those who have died are over the age of 60; 8% have been between the ages of 30 and 59 and 0.5% have been younger than 29.

Early on, older people made up the bulk of cases, but the most recent Maine Center for Disease Control data indicates that patients 29 and younger now make up the majority of new cases, increasing to 38% as of Sept. 14.

Children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated. With the more contagious delta variant responsible for almost all reported cases in Maine and students returning to school two weeks ago, young people have become the most at-risk group for the coronavirus.

In Oxford Hills, vaccination rates for those eligible are strong despite misinformation campaigns that have taken root in social and news media. The Maine CDC reports that at least two-thirds of residents in local communities have been vaccinated. Norway’s vaccination rate stands at 91%; most towns are around 80%. Buckfield and West Paris have the lowest rates, at 69% and 70%, still higher than in many regions across the country.

Currently 58 students, mostly at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High and Oxford Hills Middle schools are in quarantine due to contact with an infected person. Those two schools make up the total of reported cases – nine at OHCHS and two at OHMS. According to the SAD 17 website, there are no school personnel in quarantine as of Wednesday.

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