October was the deadliest month of the coronavirus pandemic for Franklin County, an analysis of Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention data shows.

Franklin County recorded seven deaths due to COVID-19 last month, the same number from the virus in all of 2020.

October’s death count accounted for 25% of the 28 recorded in the county since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The county also recorded the highest number of new COVID cases last month compared to any other month of the pandemic, with 519 new cases. That’s nearly 21% of the 2,495 cumulative cases recorded there.

September 2021 was previously the worst month of the pandemic for Franklin County. There were 153 more new cases recorded last month compared to September.

The county recorded its first COVID-related death on April 23, 2020. A second resident of Franklin County died from COVID just over a year ago, on Nov. 3, 2020.

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The county has gone a number of months without any deaths from COVID. Nearly 50% of all deaths in Franklin County have occurred since August 2021.

Androscoggin County’s deadliest month was November 2020, when there were 21, and Oxford County’s was December, when it recorded 30.

Since March 2020, Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties have recorded 108, 28 and 85 COVID deaths, respectively. Statewide, 1,197 Mainers have lost their lives due to the virus as of Thursday.

In response to a question about what appeared to be a recent uptick in deaths statewide due to the virus, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said at a media briefing Wednesday that his team is looking into what may be driving that.

“We’ve seen that trend over the last several days and we want to get a better handling and understanding on it,” Shah said.

Some of the recent upswing may be related to the Maine CDC’s regular reviews of death certificates for previously unreported COVID-related deaths.

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“That’s not a new feature, although it has detected more cases lately among individuals who have died,” Shah said.

That data is typically released in batches and when this occurs, it could cause the number of additional deaths on a single day as compared to the day prior to be unusually high. The Maine CDC typically clarifies how many of those deaths are from the previous 24-hour period and how many are the result of vital records reviews.

To account for this, the Sun Journal’s analysis used historical death and case data from the Maine CDC that is updated daily and reflects those reviews.

“We’ve also seen that more of the deaths are from rural areas,” Shah said. While that is clear, a deeper analysis of the breakdown by geography, age and vaccination status, among other factors, will take more time.

According to the historical data updated Thursday, Lincoln County was the only other county that saw its highest death count, taken as a percentage of the cumulative deaths in that county, in October.

January, when 236 Mainers died from COVID, was the deadliest month of the pandemic statewide. That’s nearly double the number of deaths Maine recorded in October 2021.

On a county level, most of the state had the highest number of deaths during the late winter surge that started last November and went through January.

Only three other counties besides Franklin saw their worst death toll this fall. Those were Knox, Lincoln and Piscataquis. Each saw five or fewer deaths in September or October but were their deadliest as a percentage of their cumulative death count.

Residents of Franklin and Piscataquis counties are among the least vaccinated in the state. As of Thursday, about 61% of all Franklin County residents were fully vaccinated and about 51% had received at least one dose. Statewide, 70.5% of Mainers have completed their inoculation series and 63.4% have gotten at least one shot.

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