AUGUSTA — State health officials said on Wednesday that Kennebec County had registered 177 new cases of COVID-19, representing the largest single-day jump in cases since the start of the pandemic.
According to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, has blamed a combination of community transmission and outbreaks in the province for the increase.
“Kennebec is now at a peak,” Shah said during his weekly media briefing on Wednesday. “There’s at least one outbreak that we’re working with in the veterans’ home that seems to be causing some of that, so that’s a concern.”
Shah referred to the Maine Veterans’ Homes in Augusta, where CEO Kelley Kash did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
“The biggest part is this rotating community transmission,” Shah said, “where some counties are very high and some are lower, and then the counties are kind of flip-flop, so it’s a bit of both in Kennebec now.”
Robert Long, spokesman for the Maine CDC, said on Wednesday that an outbreak at the Augusta Center for Health & Rehabilitation is still under investigation. On Friday, sixteen cases had been reported among residents and eleven among employees. The facility’s first outbreak came in April 2020, which outbreak resulted in the infection of 48 residents and 29 staff members and the death of eight residents.
The increase in the county can also be attributed to outbreaks in schools, eight of which have reported outbreaks, according to data collected by the Maine Department of Education.
As of November 4, the last date for which information is available, Winslow Elementary School reported 39 cases, Wayne Elementary School 19 and Winthrop Grade School 18.
The increase in cases comes as vaccines against COVID-19 have been approved for children ages 5 to 11, and schools across Maine are beginning to have vaccination clinics.
And with the clinics have come some protests.
Four people lined Route 202, in front of China Middle School, on Wednesday to oppose mask mandates and a clinic being held at the school.
Winslow’s Mike Willette said he showed up at 6:30 a.m. Monday and has been out of school every day this week to protest the vaccine clinics because he believes the vaccines are experimental and dangerous.
“I believe we should do this,” Willette said, adding that he also plans to protest next week at Winslow Elementary School, where a vaccine clinic will be held on Thursday, Nov. 18.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and other leading health agencies say people may experience side effects from vaccination, but say vaccines that have undergone rigorous testing are safe and an important step toward ending the disease. pandemic.
By Wednesday, COVID-19 had killed more than 750,000 people in the United States and nearly 5.1 million worldwide.
In a letter to parents and others on Wednesday, Lois Bowden, principal of the Chinese high school, wrote that many parents have contacted the school with safety concerns over the protest, such as protesters shouting or blocking the view of drivers entering the school. drive out.
Bowden said school officials have contacted police but they have the right to assemble as the protesters were not on the school grounds.
“We value people’s right to protest,” Bowden wrote.
According to state data from the CDC, Kennebec County had 10,642 cases as of Wednesday, of which 6,240 were confirmed and 4,401 likely. The province has also reported 109 COVID-19 deaths and 236 hospitalizations. The current number of cases is 871.6 per 10,000 people.
About 64% of Kennebec County’s 122,302 residents have received a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 9,653 have also received a supplemental or booster dose.
Morning Sentinel staff writer Evan Houk contributed to this report.
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