PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine officials are urging more precaution in schools due to rising numbers of coronavirus cases in some parts of the state.
The administration of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has been using a color-coded system to identify the level of risk of transmission of the virus at schools. Every county had been listed as “green,” the lowest-risk category, but the administration said Friday it is adding Androscoggin, Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset counties to the moderate “yellow” category.
The governor’s office also said Franklin and York counties are also being monitored closely because of rising positivity rates.
“Androscoggin has experienced a sharp rise in cases over the last two weeks, with a new case rate more than double the statewide average. Kennebec, Oxford and Somerset counties all have new case rates that exceed the state average, and both Oxford and Somerset counties have two-week positivity rates that exceed the state average,” the Maine Department of Education said in a statement.
School districts in the “yellow” counties are advised to consider additional coronavirus precautions and hybrid instruction modes to reduce the number of people in classrooms at once, the education department has said.
The state made the recommendation as Maine’s statewide number of daily positive coronavirus cases continued to trend upward.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 315.43 new cases per day on April 7 to 416.29 new cases per day on April 21. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 0.57 deaths per day on April 7 to 1.57 deaths per day on April 21.
The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that more than 59,000 positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the state since the start of the pandemic. Maine has had 771 deaths.
Bangor’s bus system will be shut down for a few days because of a positive case of coronavirus and exposure to employees.
City officials said the Community Connector service wouldn’t operate on Friday or Saturday, and service is scheduled to resume on Monday. Officials said they were notified on Thursday of a positive coronavirus test that resulted in three employee exposures.
Assistant City Manager Courtney O’Donnell said the city wants “our riders to know that we did not reach this decision lightly but feel extra caution is warranted.” She added that “any passengers known to have been exposed will be notified soon, if they have not already been.”
Maine might create a grant program designed to help the state’s tourism and hospitality industries, which have suffered during the coronavirus pandemic.
Democratic Sen. Joe Rafferty of Kennebunk has introduced a proposal that would allow tourism and hospitality businesses that lost revenue because of the pandemic to apply for the grants. Rafferty said the grants would be financed by federal money Maine has received this year.
Rafferty said the tourism industry in the state “makes up for a massive part of our economy, but an even larger part of who we are.” He cited the license plates in the state that say “Vacationland.”
One in six jobs in Maine is linked to the tourism industry, Rafferty said. The industry accounts for more than 10% of the state economic output at $6.2 billion annually, he said.
The proposal will face votes in legislative committee.