Workers stand on the top of Ellsworth High School as they remove old asphalt roofing shingles on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

Ellsworth’s two main schools are experiencing COVID outbreaks, as are 8 other schools in Hancock County.

Ellsworth Elementary Middle School, which at 825 students has the largest enrollment of any school in the county, has identified 33 positive COVID cases among students and staff over the past 30 days, according to the Maine Department of Education.

Elementary schools in neighboring towns also are dealing with outbreaks and have the county’s next highest case counts over the past month — 17 in Trenton and 16 in the town of Hancock. Ellsworth High School, with five cases in the past 30 days, is also in outbreak status, according to state officials.

There have been no documented cases in the past month at Hancock County Technical Center in Ellsworth.

Maine, second only to Winslow Elementary School in Kennebec County. The data come as Maine continues to see cases rising in people under age 20, outpacing all other age groups,   a trend that began in May but began a sharp rise in August, just before school began.

Dan Higgins, superintendent of the Ellsworth school system, said the high school has been in outbreak status for a few weeks and that the K-8 school was categorized in outbreak status late last month. He said school officials are maintaining communication with the Maine Department of Education and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention as they are monitoring the case counts on a daily basis.

He said all students and staff at Ellsworth schools who test positive have to quarantine for 10 days. Anyone considered a close contact of those people doesn’t necessarily have to stay away from school, but they do have to follow certain protocols depending on whether they are participating in the schools’ pool testing programs and whether they are vaccinated.

Masks are required inside school buildings for both students and staff, he said, and students are being spaced out 3 feet or more from each other as much as possible.

“It is a difficult situation,” Higgins said, acknowledging that many people would prefer to not have to follow such preventative measures. “We still have limited access to the schools.”

Other K-8 schools in Hancock County dealing with outbreaks ranging from fewer than five cases to 10 cases are located in Dedham, Penobscot, Sedgwick and Sullivan. Bucksport Middle School and Bucksport High School also are experiencing outbreaks with 10 or fewer cases.

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained inaccurate information about which schools in Hancock County are considered to be in outbreak status by Maine Department of Education.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....