Maine legislative leaders are requiring lawmakers to wear masks when they convene next week for a special session.
The Legislative Council voted 7-3 to return to a mask mandate for lawmakers who'll be gathering amid a growing number of daily infections driven by the delta variant, the Portland Press Herald reported.
The state is dealing with near-record levels of COVID-19 infections as lawmakers gather next week to vote on a redistricting plan. A bipartisan commission faces a deadline of Monday for an agreement on the maps.
"Under every matrix, every metric, every way you would measure this, today we are in a lot worse position than we've ever been as far as cases across counties, every county across Maine," said Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash.
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House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, said she'd comply with the masking requirement but preferred that other lawmakers be allowed to make that choice for themselves.
The number of outbreaks in Maine schools has risen to 72, with more than 2,000 students infected over the past 30 days, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some of the largest school outbreaks include Hermon High School, with 37 cases; Caribou High School, with 35 cases; and St. Brigid School, a private Catholic school in Portland, with 30 cases.
State and local officials have said in-person learning can continue, even though the numbers are much higher than those recorded last year.
There are about 710 schools, 172,000 students and 47,000 school staff in Maine.
New daily cases of the virus have grown by 30% in Maine over the past two weeks.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 358.57 on Sept. 8 to 466.43 on Sept. 22. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 2 on Sept. 8 to 4.29 on Sept. 22.
The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.
The have been 1,009 deaths from the virus and more than 86,000 reported cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic in Maine, state health officials reported on Friday. About 73% of the state's eligible population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.