Students eat a socially distanced lunch at Brewer High School last month. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The state gave schools in all 16 counties a green light to reopen full-time in person this week, marking the first time since September that all Maine schools have had that designation.

Two weeks ago, the state recommended that schools in four counties designated “yellow” not open for full-time, in-person instruction and instead offer a combination of in-person and remote learning.

But this Friday, Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford and York counties returned to a “green” designation as part of the Maine Department of Education’s color-coded school safety rating systems.

Over the last month, Maine has seen a sharp drop in new COVID-19 cases. Maine has seen 26.89 new cases per 10,000 residents over the past two weeks, down from its rate of 48.46 two weeks ago. Androscoggin County alone has seen its new case rate drop by more than half. As of Thursday, the county had seen 32.05 new cases per 10,000 residents, down from 68.71 two weeks earlier.

The state has not designated schools in all counties safe since early September, when York County became the first to be designated yellow after a surge driven by the Millinocket-area wedding that spawned dozens of cases across much of the state.

New daily COVID-19 cases are still higher now than they were in September, but the seven-day average has been falling since January, when it peaked at 625.6 cases. Maine’s seven-day average for new coronavirus cases stood at 208.9 on Friday.