The administration of Gov. Janet Mills announced July 28 that the state will follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated face covering guidance, which recommends that:

all people, regardless of vaccination status, wear face coverings in indoor, public settings in areas with “substantial” or “high” levels of community transmission; and

all teachers, staff and students in K-12 schools wear face coverings, regardless of vaccination status or community transmission level.

According to the U.S. CDC, York and Piscataquis counties have “substantial” levels of community transmission at this time, which means individuals should wear face coverings in indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status. Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said July 28 during a media briefing that Knox and Waldo Counties were near the threshold to also be placed in the category where wearing masks inside in public places would be recommended.

Maine’s other 14 counties currently have “moderate” levels of community transmission according to the U.S. CDC and are thus not subject to the first recommendation. The U.S. CDC determines level of community transmission based on the number of cases in the last seven days per 100,000 people, and the percentage of tests in the last seven days that have a positive result.

Consistent with Maine’s recent approach to COVID-19-related policy and the expiration of the State of Civil Emergency, these changes are recommendations, not requirements.

The Governor and Maine health officials continue to strongly urge Maine people to get vaccinated as the best way to protect themselves from COVID-19.

“As a result of their willingness to roll up their sleeves, 72 percent of eligible Maine people have been fully vaccinated – one of the best rates in the country. This has helped us keep our rates of COVID-19 low compared to the rest of the nation, but the Delta variant remains a threat that we want to keep at bay as much as possible,” Gov. Mills said.

“The most effective way to do that is to get vaccinated. We continue to strongly urge all people to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities by getting your shot. In the meantime, we recommend that Maine people follow the U.S. CDC’s updated public health recommendations.”

“Vaccination is our best shot to slow the spread of COVID-19, including variants that continue to cause serious illness and death,” said Jeanne Lambrew, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Shah.

“We continue to strongly urge all Maine people to get their shot to protect themselves and keep people safe. As the U.S. CDC has noted, vaccination is our best route out of this pandemic and this new guidance serves as a reminder that we must continue to take the threat of this virus seriously.”

“The pandemic continues to create dynamic challenges for school communities across the nation, and we are extremely proud of the leadership and professionalism exhibited by Maine’s administrators, school boards, and staff members as they work to keep their schools safe and open,” said Pender Makin, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Education.

“Maine’s Department of Education remains committed to providing support and guidance as we navigate this continually evolving situation.”

COVID-19 vaccine remains widely available across the state. To find a vaccination location, go to maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites or call the Community Vaccination Line at 1-888-445-4111.

Maine continues to demonstrate nation-leading progress in administering vaccinations and containing the spread of COVID-19. More than 63% of Maine’s total population is fully vaccinated and 68% received at least one dose, according to the U.S. CDC vaccination tracker. Seventy-seven percent of eligible Maine people (12 years and older) received at least one dose and nearly 72% of eligible Maine people are fully vaccinated.

Despite having the oldest median age population in the country, Maine, adjusted for population, ranks fourth lowest among states in both COVID-19 cases and deaths from COVID-19, according to the U.S. CDC.