PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Aroostook County saw 33 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, by far the most it had seen in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic.
Even as doses of a COVID-19 vaccine arrived at the region’s largest hospital, Northern Light A.R. Gould, the numbers marked a sharp escalation of cases in a region once relatively unaffected by the pandemic. The previous record for new cases was 17, set on Dec. 7 and repeated on Dec. 8 and Dec. 11.
As of Dec. 16, there are now 194 active COVID-19 cases in Aroostook County, which gives it the 10th highest active case rate out of Maine’s 16 counties, according to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention data. In comparison, Aroostook did not have a single active case at the end of September.
Aroostook County is far from the only part of Maine seeing spikes: the 554 new cases the Maine CDC reported on Wednesday was a record high for the state.
While it is unclear where the new numbers came from, there are several ongoing outbreaks in The County, including one at the Presque Isle Rehab and Nursing Center that has infected 27 and killed four. On Tuesday, the Maine CDC also said it was investigating a COVID-19 outbreak it believed to be linked to a church in Patten.
There are also active outbreaks at Presque Isle’s Zippel Elementary School, where five people have tested positive for the virus, and Presque Isle High School, where four people have done so.
In a region with a rural health infrastructure, high levels of poverty and an aversion by many to wearing face coverings, the virus poses many unique threats to Aroostook County as it spreads across Maine.
While Aroostook once had the lowest rate of cases since the pandemic began, the 33 new cases put it ahead of Piscataquis County in its total case rate.