As of noon Wednesday, March 18, 30 Maine residents have been confirmed positive and 12 others are presumed positive for the coronavirus, according to the state. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.
Unemployment claims in Maine skyrocketed over the first three days of this week as businesses in the state have shuttered due to the coronavirus.
Unemployed workers submitted more new claims between Sunday and Tuesday than the previous six full weeks ending on March 7.
The state received approximately 4,900 new unemployment claims over those three days, Maine Department of Labor spokesperson Jessica Picard said Wednesday. That figure represents a nearly 800 percent increase over the corresponding full week in 2019.
With the week less than half over, claims are on pace to surpass the previous high of 5,634 new weekly claims set during the Great Recession in 2009.
The surge in claims occurs as businesses throughout the state have temporarily closed due to concerns about coronavirus transmission. This has left many restaurant, bar and tourism employees without income. The state’s leisure and hospitality industry employs more than 75,000 people, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or nearly 12 percent of the Maine workforce.
On Wednesday, Gov. Janet Mills ordered all restaurants and bars to suspend dine-in service for 14 days starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, the governor signed a bill expanding unemployment benefits to employees affected by the outbreak.
At the federal level, Trump administration officials have signaled support for a plan to send checks directly to American adults.
Massachusetts saw a similar spike in claims. On Wednesday, The Boston Globe reported that the state received 20,000 new claims on Monday alone, more than the entire month of February.
Watch: Symptoms of the coronavirus disease