AUGUSTA — State health officials said Wednesday that Kennebec County had recorded 177 new cases of COVID-19, representing the largest single-day jump in cases since the pandemic began.

A combination of community transmission and outbreaks in the county is driving the increase, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

“Kennebec is at a high point right now,” Shah said during his weekly media briefing Wednesday. “There is at least one outbreak that we are working with at the veterans’ home that seems to be driving some of that, so that’s a concern area.”

Shah’s reference was to the Maine Veterans’ Homes in Augusta, where CEO Kelley Kash did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

“The bulk of it is this rotating community transmission,” Shah said, “with some counties being very high and then others being lower, and then the counties sort of flip-flopping throughout, so it’s a bit of both in Kennebec right now.”

Robert Long, spokesman for the Maine CDC, said Wednesday an outbreak at the Augusta Center for Health & Rehabilitation remained under investigation. Sixteen cases had been reported among residents and 11 among staff members as of Friday. The facility’s first outbreak came in April 2020, That outbreak resulted in the infection of 48 residents and 29 staff members, and the death of eight residents.


The county increase can also be attributed to outbreaks at schools, eight of which have reported outbreaks, according to data compiled by the Maine Department of Education.

As of Nov. 4, the latest date for which information is available, Winslow Elementary School reported 39 cases, Wayne Elementary School reported 19, and Winthrop Grade School 18.

The increase in cases comes as vaccinations against COVID-19 have been approved for children ages 5 to 11, and as schools across Maine are beginning to hold vaccination clinics.

And with the clinics have come some protests.

Michael Cook left, yells at a motorist Wednesday who disagreed with Cook and others protesting a child vaccination clinic at China Middle School. The protest in China came the same day state health officials reported 177 new COVID-19 cases in Kennebec County, the largest single-day total in the county since the pandemic began. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Four people stood on Route 202 Wednesday, in front of the China Middle School, to oppose mask mandates and a clinic being held at the school.

Mike Willette of Winslow said he showed up at 6:30 a.m. Monday and has stood outside the school every day this week to protest the vaccine clinics because he believes the vaccines are experimental and dangerous.


“I believe we have to do this,” Willette said, adding he intended to protest at Winslow Elementary School as well next week, 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 can experience side effects from being vaccinated, but say vaccines that have gone through rigid testing are safe and an important step toward ending the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, COVID-19 had killed more than 750,000 people in the United States and almost 5.1 million worldwide.

In a letter to parents and others Wednesday, China Middle School Principal Lois Bowden wrote many parents have contacted the school with safety concerns about the protest, such as protesters yelling or blocking the view of drivers pulling out of the school.

Bowden said school officials have contacted police but were told that since the protesters were not on school grounds, they have the right to assemble.

“We appreciate the right of people to protest,” Bowden wrote.

According to state CDC data, Kennebec County had 10,642 cases as of Wednesday, of which 6,240 were confirmed and 4,401 probable. The county has also reported 109 COVID-19 deaths and 236 hospitalizations. The current case rate 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, with 9,653 also receiving an additional or booster dose.

Staff Writer Evan Houk of the Morning Sentinel contributed to this report. 

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