Patrons leave the Portland Museum of Art, which recently reopened. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

York County continues to be the epicenter for COVID-19 infections in Maine, with 25 new cases and three new outbreaks reported Tuesday among 42 cases statewide.

Also on Tuesday, state health officials announced an expansion of Maine’s coronavirus testing program to allow anyone to get a test without a doctor’s note.

No additional deaths were attributed to the disease. In Cumberland County, Maine’s most populous county, there were five new cases.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said a pickup football game and a “sunrise gathering” of high school seniors may have contributed to an outbreak at Sanford High School and Sanford Regional Technical Center, where 12 cases have been detected.

“Out-of-school gatherings matter just as much as in-school gatherings,” Shah said at an afternoon news briefing.

Shah reported a new outbreak at the Sanford Wolves Club, with five cases of COVID-19, the latest in a string of outbreaks at social clubs in Sanford, including the Sanford American Legion, the Elks Club and the Lafayette Club.

“COVID-19 has now affected virtually every aspect of life in the Sanford area,” he said.

Other previously reported outbreaks have occurred at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, the York County Jail in Alfred and other locations.

“We’re deeply concerned about Sanford in particular, York County in general,” Shah said, when asked whether a shutdown was possible in Sanford or York County. He said while no public health measures are off the table, “we reach first to things like prevention, making sure mask wearing and physical distancing are the norm.”

Other new outbreaks include three cases at the Hussey Seating Company in North Berwick and three cases among employees at the Ogunquit Beach Lobster House.

“Individuals who dined or worked at the (Ogunquit Beach Lobster House) between Sept. 12 and Sept. 18 could have been exposed to the virus and should monitor themselves for symptoms. Those determined to be close contacts of confirmed cases must quarantine for 14 days and should consult their medical providers about testing,” the Maine CDC said in a news release.

The seven-day daily average of new cases stood at 30.3 on Tuesday, the same as a week ago, but about double the seven-day average of about 15 cases in mid-August.

Maine health officials announced the state is broadening who can get a COVID-19 test, letting everyone who wants a test to be permitted to get one without a doctor’s note or meeting other criteria first, as Maine continues to expand its testing capacity.

“Increased access to testing is a critical part of the strategy to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus, to return kids to school safely, and to ensure that our economy stays up and running,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement.

Maine is now testing 400 out of every 100,000 people, the highest per capita rate in the nation, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute. Part of that growth is the two dozen “swab and send” sites opened across the state where people can get tested and usually receive results within 48 hours.

Jeanne Lambrew, Maine’s health and human services commissioner, said on Tuesday that while the expanded testing is important, it does not mean people should abandon other safety measures, such as wearing masks and physical distancing.

“Testing alone is not prevention,” Lambrew said. “A negative test alone does not mean it’s safe to gather with others.”

On Monday, the Maine CDC reported a COVID-19 exposure at the Portland International Jetport on Sunday, when an individual who had tested positive planned to board a flight to Florida. State health officials persuaded the individual to not board the flight, but a close contact of the COVID-19 positive person boarded the plane and was removed by airline officials.

Shah said he couldn’t go into details, but state health officials were aware of the person with COVID-19 prior to the person going to the airport. He said others told state health officials of the pair’s travel plans.

“Once we learned of their plans we reiterated the directions that we had given them, and that was traveling of this nature is certainly not allowed,” Shah said.

Lambrew said the COVID-19 positive person “acted against medical advice” and the state has now “ordered” the person to maintain isolation for two weeks.

The agency is advising anyone who was at the airport between 12:30-4 p.m. on Sunday to monitor themselves for symptoms and consult with a health care provider to determine whether they should be tested.

Since the pandemic began, 5,146 people have contracted COVID-19, and 140 have died.

Much of the growth in cases in York County has been linked to a 65-person wedding and reception in the Millinocket area, where attendees were not wearing masks or practicing social distancing. The Aug. 7 event has directly or indirectly led to at least 177 cases and eight deaths, including seven at a nursing home in Madison.

An employee of the York County jail attended the wedding, sparking an outbreak at the jail and since then outbreaks have continued in York County, especially in the Sanford area.

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