Maine reported 57 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the third day in a row the state has logged more than 50 cases.

The increase in cases is tracking with a nationwide trend of an autumn spike in COVID-19, although Maine’s underlying infection rate is still among the lowest in the country.

“The spike we have foreshadowed is happening,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a news briefing Tuesday. “This is deeply concerning. The bottom line is we are in it now.”

Maine also indefinitely delayed its winter high school sports season on Tuesday, making the move to allow school and health officials to develop guidelines for a season in which most sports are played inside.

The seven-day daily average of new cases was 45.8 on Tuesday, up from 32 a week ago and 29.7 a month ago. Despite the jump in cases, Maine is set to reopen bars on Monday with extra rules in place to limit the virus’ spread, but state health officials on Tuesday said that they are closely examining that upcoming date. Bars in other states have been associated with COVID-19 outbreaks, and in Maine they are one of the last types of businesses to reopen.

Jeanne Lambrew, Maine’s health and human services commissioner, said that no decisions have been made regarding bars, but “we are still looking hard at the data, and circumstances have changed since we made that recommendation.”

A man walks near the Casco Bay ferry terminal on the Portland waterfront Sunday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In an appearance on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday, Shah discussed Maine’s low infection rates compared to most of the country, saying Maine people “believe in science” and listened to advice such as wearing masks and physical distancing.

Although Maine’s numbers are increasing, the state is doing well relative to the rest of the United States. On Tuesday, Maine had the lowest seven-day average of daily new cases in the nation, at 2.8 cases per 100,000, followed by Vermont at 3.1, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute. In most of the country, cases are soaring and the spread of the disease is exponential. Twenty-one states had rates of 25 cases per 100,000 or higher, more than 10 times higher than what Maine is experiencing. Some hot spots, such as North Dakota and South Dakota, had rates higher than 90 cases per 100,000.

There were no new deaths on Tuesday. Since the pandemic began, 6,311 Mainers have been sickened by COVID-19, and 146 have died.

On Tuesday, 14 new cases were tracked in Cumberland County, 11 in York County, three in Androscoggin County and one case in Waldo County. Waldo County was the location of a recent large outbreak, with 60 cases connected to Brooks Pentecostal Church services in early October. After a rapid escalation in cases in the first three days after the Maine CDC reported the outbreak in mid-October, the growth in cases associated with the church has slowed.

Shah, answering questions at the media briefing, said while it’s encouraging cases connected to Brooks Pentecostal Church have slowed, it can take an extra week or two for secondary outbreaks to occur, so it’s still possible for the outbreak to grow much larger.

“We’re not out of this yet,” he said.

Matthew Shaw, pastor of Brooks Pentecostal Church, apologized in a Facebook video posted on Tuesday.

“We regret what has happened. We ask your forgiveness,” Shaw said. “We apologize that the sickness came to our church. We apologize for the consequences that maybe the community is feeling.”

According to the Maine CDC, 34 of the 60 cases were from primary transmission – people who attended Brooks Pentecostal services in early October – while the remaining 26 cases were secondary transmission, people who did not attend services but were exposed to those who did.

The Maine Department of Education changed Waldo County’s classification from “green” to “yellow,” meaning high school sports and extracurricular activities have been halted for at least two weeks.

Shah said more cases have been connected to community transmission, which is a warning sign for possible exponential growth.

“It’s much harder to tamp down on community transmission than an outbreak,” Shah said, explaining that public health employees can more easily track cases and quarantine those who may be contagious in an outbreak.

Shah said some counties that previously had experienced very few cases are now seeing increases. For instance, in Washington County, 32 of the 48 total cases since the pandemic began happened in October.

Also on Tuesday, the Maine CDC reported two new outbreaks, four cases at Second Baptist Church in Calais and three cases at Woodland Memory Care in Rockland.

Meanwhile, Fryeburg Academy sent all students home and will switch to remote-only learning through Nov. 6 after two reported positive cases. The first, a student, tested positive on Thursday, prompting an early release on Friday for students. On Saturday, a teacher also tested positive, prompting the decision to shut down in-person learning at the private boarding school that also provides education for the area’s public school students.

The decision also effectively ended the athletic season for Fryeburg Academy, although one cross-country runner will be allowed to participate in Wednesday’s Western Maine Conference Class B qualifying race, to be held in Freeport, said Sue Thurston, Fryeburg’s athletic director.

The Department of Corrections said Tuesday that after an employee at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham tested positive for COVID-19 last week, additional testing has confirmed the virus in two more workers. The department said it would be working with the Maine CDC on an outbreak investigation.

Statewide, hospitalizations remained low, with 12 people currently hospitalized for COVID-19, and five in intensive care.

Staff Writer Steve Craig contributed to this article.

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