AUBURN, Maine (AP) — The day after Androscoggin County commissioners considered a resolution against mask-wearing mandates, the sheriff said he and his staffers won't attend future meetings in person because of the risk of contracting COVID-19.

“I would encourage the use of Zoom for meeting purposes and if you do not wish to have staff present I would also be willing to participate via Zoom," Sheriff Eric Samson wrote Thursday, the Sun Journal reported.

He added, “This is not a political stance or a criticism in any regard, I just need to look out for staff health and safety."

Many people attending Wednesday's meeting did not wear masks. Up for discussion was a proposal by Commissioner Isaiah Lary opposing orders from Gov. Janet Mills mandating face coverings in public, limiting the size of gatherings and other restrictions. More than 20 people spoke against the mask requirement; no one spoke in favor of the mandates.

Commissioners voted 4-3 to postpone action on the resolution.

In other pandemic-related developments:



Maine’s seven-day average for new cases is now 297, reflecting a continuing downward trend after the holiday season.

The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 3.13%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

On Friday, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported two more deaths, bringing the state's total to 632.



Four health care workers from Maine are among about 80 from the Northeast who will be seeing the Super Bowl in person.

They're flying to Florida on the New England Patriots’ team plane, offered up by franchise owner Robert Kraft. The health care workers who are being honored were nominated by colleagues.

“I feel like I’m Willy Wonka. I got the golden ticket somehow,” Dr. Patrick Keaney, a pulmonary physician at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, told WMTW-TV.

“I am just like a little kid on Christmas,” added Lisa Ireland, a nurse at the RiverRidge long term care facility in Kennebunk.