A photo of Sanford High School from 2018, when it was still under construction. Credit: CBS 13

Maine health officials have discovered three new coronavirus outbreaks in inland York County, as well as new cases connected to an ongoing outbreak at Sanford High School.

The state has discovered nine cases associated with Pinnacle Health and Rehab nursing home in Sanford, 11 cases associated with Little Lambs Learning Center in Springvale and four cases associated with Massabesic Middle School in East Waterboro.

It has now identified 18 cases connected to Sanford High School, in an outbreak that has prompted the high school and the Sanford Regional Technical Center to move to fully remote learning for at least two weeks. Outside York County, it has also so far identified 23 cases associated with an outbreak at the ND Paper mill in Rumford.

Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, announced the new outbreaks on Tuesday afternoon. State health officials continue to be concerned by the growing number of COVID-19 cases in York County.

Some of the southernmost county’s cases can be attributed to an outbreak at the York County Jail in Alfred, where an employee is thought to have introduced the virus after attending a now-infamous Aug. 7 wedding in the Millinocket region. But many other cases have been discovered since then in a church, social clubs, schools and various other workplaces. The city of Sanford in particular has emerged as a virus hotspot.

On Tuesday, Shah said that the federal government will soon provide Maine with a new type of rapid COVID-19 testing machine that it will distribute to entities around the state, including schools, to improve surveillance for the disease.

The machines, which are made by the company Abbott Laboratories that has a production facility in Scarborough, will initially allow the state to conduct at least 26,000 additional COVID-19 tests, with results that can come back within 15 minutes, according to Shah.

While the state still has not determined exactly to whom it will distribute those testing devices, Shah said that the federal government is encouraging state officials to deploy them to schools for use on students, staff and teachers who start showing symptoms.

“Having that early look at what might be happening at the school level when someone starts exhibiting symptoms helps public health folks at my agency get a quicker sense of what we might be contending with,” Shah said. “If that rapid result returns a positive, that takes us down one pathway. If it returns a negative result, that immediately takes us down a separate pathway.”

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