In this Dec. 8, 2020, photo, Khalit Ibrahim looks at the view through a magnifying glass during a study of snowflakes at the Gerald Talbot School, in Portland. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

The state said Friday it is not safe for schools in Cumberland County to remain open for full-time, in-person instruction for the first time.

The state’s most populous county remained green since the introduction of the safety rating system in late summer, according to Maine Department of Education spokesperson Kelli Deveaux. A green designation means it’s safe for schools there to remain open for full-time, in-person education.

Four Maine counties are now classified as “yellow” under the Maine Department of Education’s color-coded safety rating system, which the department updated Friday. State officials recommend a combination of in-person and remote learning for yellow counties.

Last Friday, three of those four counties — Androscoggin, Oxford and York — were in the yellow category.

TRACKING THE CORONAVIRUS IN MAINE

The state has kept a close eye on Cumberland County since the introduction of the safety rating system in late summer, but the county’s designation has remained “green” for most of the semester. A green designation means it’s safe for schools there to remain open for full-time, in-person education.

The state downgrades Cumberland County’s safety rating as it recorded 49.93 new COVID-19 cases per 10,000 residents over the last two week, up from 28.68 at the same time a week ago. Maine as a whole has seen 39.84 new cases for every 10,000 residents over the past two weeks, as the state has continually set new records for new daily cases and hospitalizations.

The state was watching Kennebec County closely last week after it reported high rates of COVID-19 cases, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. But Kennebec County remained “green,” which means it’s safe for schools there to remain open for full-time, in-person education.

Oxford County has had the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, with 60.20 cases per 10,000 residents.

Over the past two weeks, Androscoggin, Cumberland, Franklin and York counties also recorded higher rates of new daily cases than the rest of the state. Most have also recorded higher test positivity rates than the state as a whole. The positivity rate — the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive — is an indicator of how widely the virus is circulating in an area, and it has been on the rise across Maine.