All Maine counties are now considered low risk for COVID-19, which means indoor masking recommendations have been lifted statewide for the first time since last summer.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its “community levels” guidelines late Thursday and moved the last Maine county, Hancock, from the medium risk category to low risk. The U.S. CDC does not recommend indoor mask wearing in low-risk counties, but advises that people get vaccinations and booster shots, get tested if they are exposed or have symptoms, and isolate if they test positive.

The CDC’s risk assessments are based on case counts, hospital capacity and new hospital admissions. Low risk indicates the infection rate is not likely to place a burden on hospitals, but it does not mean COVID is not continuing to spread in a community.

On Thursday, for example, the Maine Department of Education added Brunswick High School to the list of six Maine schools experiencing outbreaks. There were 12 cases at the Brunswick school, according to the state. Maranacook Community High School in Readfield shifted to remote learning this week because of an active outbreak with about 25 new cases.

The easing of mask recommendations has happened across the country. Ninety-five percent of the nation’s counties are now considered low risk, with 4.5 percent moderate risk and 0.5 percent high risk, according to the federal health agency.

Like Maine, most states are experiencing a period of stability, with no significant change in daily case counts or hospital patient counts. The plateau follows a dramatic weekslong decline from the omicron peak in January. The steep decline stalled as a more contagious omicron BA.2 subvariant began to spread throughout the country and in Maine.


Maine has gone from an average of about 850 cases per day in early March to an average of 199 over the past week. However, the daily average has hovered at about 200 cases for about three weeks. Nationwide, cases are still declining slightly but also have flattened out, with the seven-day average of new cases dropping only 3 percent over the past week.

Many U.S. experts expect the more contagious subvariant to lead to an uptick in cases, but not to trigger a new surge or a significant rise in hospitalizations the way it has in some other countries, including the United Kingdom. That’s in part because the U.S. has high levels of immunity after the omicron wave. While the new subvariant is more contagious it is not more likely to cause severe illness.

Meanwhile, Maine reported 256 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and no additional deaths. Since the pandemic began, Maine has recorded 236,046 cases and 2,202 deaths.

COVID hospitalizations declined Friday, from 97 patients Thursday to 91 Friday, with 14 in critical care and five on a ventilator. Hospitalizations in Maine have stayed mostly in the 90s since March 18, according to Maine CDC data.

Nationally, hospital admissions have declined 13 percent during the past week.

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