Website grades Maine’s sixteen counties on “social distancing”

A stack of traps on shore in Castine, Maine. Photo courtesy RIL Images.

AUGUSTA – Maine’s sixteen counties are facing a wide range in the number of COVID-19 infections, from more than 150 cases in Cumberland County and 53 cases in York County down to the four Maine counties that still do not have a confirmed COVID-19 case, Aroostook, Piscataquis, Hancock and Washington Counties, according to the Maine CDC.

Now, a company called UNACAST is grading every county in the nation on their social distancing activity as compared to their activity before the pandemic.

Calling it the “Social Distancing Scoreboard”, UNACAST has compiled data across the country that compares how much traveling residents of those counties did before and after the pandemic began. The states and counties are graded on the overall reduction in their movement.

Overall, Maine is graded a “C” with a -20% reduction in travel statewide. The United States is graded a “B” overall with a -32% reduction in travel statewide.

The latest data is through March 26th.

In Maine, Cumberland County and Knox County are leading Maine on the social distancing scoreboard with “B” scores through March 26th. Both of those counties show a -37% distance traveled since before the pandemic.

Two counties that are reporting 0 confirmed cases of COVID-19 are given “F” scores, and the scoreboard says that residents of those counties are actually traveling about slightly more now than they did before the pandemic.

Aroostook County, Maine’s expansive northern county, shows a 1% increase in travel by residents since before the pandemic. Washington County, Maine’s easternmost county resting on the Atlantic Ocean, shows a 2% increase in travel by residents since before the pandemic.

All the rest of Maine’s counties fall somewhere in between.

See the list below shows how each of Maine’s counties is graded alongside the number of confirmed cases in that county according to Maine CDC.

COUNTYTRAVEL CHANGE % UNACAST SCORE CONFIRMED CASES (CDC)
CUMBERLAND -37% B 154
KNOX -37% B 4
HANCOCK -27% C 0
SAGADAHOC -26% C 7
OXFORD -24% C 9
YORK -23% C 53
LINCOLN -21% C 8
ANDROSCOGGIN -18% D 8
COUNTY TRAVEL CHANGE UNACAST SCORE CONFIRMED CASES (CDC)
KENNEBEC -17% D 10
PISCATAQUIS -14% D 0
PENOBSCOT -11% D 12
FRANKLIN -7% F 2
SOMERSET -4% F 1
WALDO -3% F 2
AROOSTOOK 1% F 0
WASHINGTON 2% F 0

A number of factors could be influencing county by county results. For instance, Kennebec County likely has the largest percentage of workers in the state classified as “essential” because so many state employees in departments dealing with the economic and medical fallout of the pandemic work in state offices in Augusta.

Rural counties without any confirmed cases have at least two factors at play, both the fact that those counties require considerable travel to even grocery shop or go to work and the reality that residents may not yet feel as concerned about the spread of the virus.

Maine’s two most heavily populated counties, Cumberland and York, also have the largest number of confirmed cases. Both have seen significant increases in social distancing.

Of the five counties with the lowest scores on the scoreboard, no county has more than 2 confirmed cases.

Across Maine, concern has also been rising about residents of other states coming into Maine. Governor Janet Mills has said individuals coming to Maine should self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving.

Over the weekend, a group of armed “vigilantes” on Vinalhaven made international news after they dropped a large tree across the driveway of a home where individuals with out-of-state license plates were staying.

The Eastport Port Authority on Monday released a statement asking residents not to harass individuals with license plates from other states, saying members of the U.S. Coast Guard who are stationed in Eastport had been harassed. Those individuals have been stationed in Eastport for “multi-year deployments” the Port Authority said.

President Donald Trump and Governor Janet Mills have continued a steady stream of announcements of various actions they are taking at the state and federal level to ensure adequate supplies at hospitals, support workers and businesses facing incredible adversity in the current economy and to provide resources to medical professionals and health care workers.

UNACAST says they wait three days for all data to come in for any event or activity and then processing takes another day, which is why the data is about four days behind. While at first blush the data presented appears quite simple, the methodology behind the scores is quite complex.

You can learn about the Social Distancing Scoreboard methodology by clicking here.

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