Bangor High School. Credit: BDN file photo

Schools in Bangor and Orono on Thursday reported their first COVID-19 cases of the school year during the first week of classes, in a potential sign of what’s to come this school year as virus cases surge.

Bangor High School’s first reported case came on the second day of the 2021-22 school year.

Bangor School Department Superintendent James Tager confirmed that one case had been detected at the high school, and that parents had received notice at 11:30 a.m. Thursday morning.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people had been in close contact with the person who tested positive, nor whether the case was in a student or school employee.

The school nurse will send out emails to close contacts, Tager said.

However, masking measures in place at the school may limit the number of people who have to quarantine due to close contact, Tager said. The state Department of Education has advised schools that close contacts exposed to a coronavirus case don’t have to quarantine if schools have universal masking in place.

The Bangor School Committee  voted unanimously late last month to mandate masks in schools, citing the delta variant’s contagiousness.

Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that fully vaccinated, asymptomatic close contacts do not need to quarantine. Children over 12 are eligible for the vaccine.  

The news of Bangor High’s first COVID case came the same day that Penobscot County broke a single-day case record with 159 new cases. The state also saw its biggest single-day increase in coronavirus cases in months, reporting 624 new cases.

A COVID case was also reported at Asa C. Adams Elementary School in Orono on Thursday. The person was last on campus on Wednesday, according to a letter from Superintendent Meredith Higgins to Regional School Unit 26 families.

Five students had been identified as close contacts, and affected staff and students were being notified, Higgins wrote.

Tuesday was the first day of school for all grade levels in Orono.

Like Bangor, RSU 26 adopted universal masking for its students, staff and faculty.

The universal masking policies could help the Bangor-area districts avoid a repeat of the start of school in Aroostook County earlier this summer. Schools in a number of towns went remote within days of starting due to virus cases and a lack of universal mask wearing. A number of school districts later adopted mask requirements.

Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.