A masked man passes a shop window with a similarly-masked mannequin in Portland on Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Today is Thursday. Temperatures will be in the low 30s to low 40s from north to south with partly sunny skies in the south and cloudy skies with a chance of snow in the north. Here’s what we’re talking about in Maine today.

Here’s the latest on the coronavirus in Maine

Another seven deaths and 406 cases were reported in Maine on Wednesday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. There are now 3,870 active confirmed and “probable” cases in the state. The death toll now stands at 246.  Check out our COVID-19 Tracker for more information.

Across the state, schools enrolled nearly 8,000 fewer students this fall than a year ago, as some parents kept younger students home and others turned to homeschooling and private schools. See whether your local school district lost or gained students this fall.

The BDN just published 6 investigative stories on county sheriff’s offices. Here’s how we did it. 

The pieces of the puzzle that made up the BDN’s investigative series on Maine sheriffs. Credit: Photo illustration by Natalie Williams / BDN

In late 2017, then-Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant resigned after sending sexually explicit images to employees and former inmates. His case wasn’t the only sexual harassment scandal to roil a Maine sheriff’s office. In late 2018, the Bangor Daily News reported that a guard at the Penobscot County Jail had sent unwanted explicit photos of himself to his colleagues, former inmates and a volunteer for years, until he resigned amid an internal investigation. 

If two Maine counties, Oxford and Penobscot, had issues with sexual harassment, it was likely other sheriff’s offices had also documented misconduct that hadn’t yet become public. Perhaps discipline records could provide a wider view of what was happening across Maine.

So, in early 2020, the BDN began filing requests under the Maine Freedom of Access Act with all 16 Maine counties for five years of discipline and settlement agreements. It was the start of what would be a nearly year-long look at power and misconduct at Maine’s sheriff’s offices. 

PLUS: For the key takeaways from our months-long investigations into county law enforcement, click here.

Bangor’s school board strained to avoid public debate. Now it’s airing more differences in public.

Members of the Bangor School Committee are pictured during a Nov. 9 meeting at City Hall. Clockwise from left: Marwa Hassanien, Carin Sychterz, John Hiatt, Warren Caruso, Clare Mundell, Tim Surrette and Susan Sorg. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

But the pattern of limited dissent and public debate has gradually changed in the last four years primarily due to a few new faces on the committee who have consistently questioned or disagreed with the majority in public meetings, prompting more public discussion on issues including student safety, the school department’s communicativeness and efforts to fight racism.

Trash being shipped to an Orrington incinerator from Ireland washes up on shores of Sears Island

Employees for CleanHarbors Environmental Services clean up shredded plastic that was coming in from Northern Ireland and headed to an Orrington waste-to-electricity plant after it fell into the water last week and began washing up on the shores of Sears Island. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The tiny pieces of brightly covered plastic debris littered the high-tide line along more than half a mile of the northwest corner of the island. A crew from Clean Harbors Environmental in Hampden on Wednesday began the painstaking work of separating the plastic from the half-frozen seaweed and bagging it up for removal.

Drought and pandemic pushed Maine’s 2020 wildfire total to highest level in 35 years

Smoke rises above a 236-acre fire in the Aroostook County town of Island Falls in this May 2020 file photo. The fire was one of 1,150 reported wildfires in Maine in 2020, which is the highest statewide total for wildfires in Maine since 1985. This year’s prolonged drought, and pandemic-driven outdoor activities, are believed to be the primary reasons for the increase, according to state officials. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Forest Rangers

The number of wildfires in the state this year, 1,150, has been aggravated by drought and by more people spending time outside as a way of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, said Bill Hamilton, Maine’s chief forest ranger. The number of reported wildfires in Maine in 2020 is the highest annual total since 1985.

Vote now to select Maine’s greatest high school football coach of all time

In this 2014 file photo, Thornton Academy football players raise the gold ball after beating Windham High School in Portland for the Class A state championship in Portland. The BDN is asking readers to help select Maine’s greatest high school football coach of all time. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The Bangor Daily News is asking readers to help select Maine’s Greatest High School Football Coach of All Time. Through your nominations, we have put together a star-studded list of 32 standout coaches and have matched them against each other here in a seeded, NCAA-style bracket.

Check out this majestic bull moose on a trail camera video

Spotting a big Maine moose in the wild can be the highlight of any outdoor adventure. Credit: Courtesy of David I.

While an in-person visit with the moose might be more thrilling, this video gives us a much closer encounter than we’d ever get in the wild. Unless, that is, we were on the verge of getting stomped when we captured the video.

A Maine Legislature changed by the pandemic could challenge lobbyists in 2021

Lawmakers and lobbyists gather in the hallway in this Jan. 2020 file photo from the State House in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Lobbyists always try to get to know lawmakers when a new session starts, but the coronavirus pandemic may alter how relationships are built and negotiations handled as the 2021 session set to begin in earnest this January looks like it will take place more on Zoom and less in the State House.

In other Maine news…

A Bridgton farm no one has heard of received $1.2M PPP loan

Maine joins federal government, 47 other states in antitrust action against Facebook

Maine astronaut Jessica Meir could be 1st woman on the moon

Maine will give one $600 check to unemployed workers as federal benefits expire

Jay mill owners won’t rebuild pulp digester destroyed in explosion

5 more Portland restaurants that closed during the pandemic

Benton man pleads not guilty to double murder

Lindsay Putnam

Lindsay Putnam is a senior editor for sports and features at the Bangor Daily News. Lindsay previously worked as an editor and reporter at the New York Post. She's a York Beach native and Colby College...