March 26 morning update: The latest on the coronavirus and Maine

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With cases continuing to climb in the state, here’s the latest roundup of coronavirus news and its impact in Maine.
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Update: As of 11 a.m. Thursday there are now 155 cases of the coronavirus confirmed in Maine. Read the latest story here.

As of Wednesday, there are now 142 coronavirus cases reported in 10 Maine counties, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health officials said Wednesday that a case connected with a Department of Health and Human Services office in Lewiston is under investigation, prompting the closure of that office.

With cases continuing to climb in the state, here’s the latest on the coronavirus and its impact in Maine.

— Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah will provide an update on the coronavirus in the state at 11:30 a.m. The BDN will livestream the briefing.

— Colby and Bowdoin colleges both reported fresh cases connected with their campuses. Colby administrators said that two students have tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. One of those students has recovered. Bowdoin’s president said a member of the campus’ community tested positive, bringing the total number of cases connected to Bowdoin to four.

— The spread of the coronavirus prompted most public schools across the state to close, including its universities and colleges. That’s emptied what would otherwise be bustling campuses at this point in the spring semester. Only 291 students remain at residence halls at the University of Maine in Orono, just 5 percent of its normal population. Most students have left campus for home, where they are finishing the semester remotely. The University of Maine System is refunding students and their families for room and board fees, which is expected to total $12.85 million across its seven campuses. That accounts for the bulk of a forecast $20 million loss the system expects from the coronavirus, according to Chancellor Dannel Malloy.

— Travel in Maine immediately plummeted after the state announced its first case of the coronavirus, suggesting people are heeding advice from health officials on social distancing, though it is unclear exactly how it has reduced the spread of the virus.

— The coronavirus has prompted Mainers to file 4,900 new jobless claims over three days this month, an 800 percent increase over the corresponding week in 2019 and near a weekly high set during the 2009 recession. Those are sure to increase after Democratic Gov. Janet Mills ordered nonessential businesses to close on Tuesday night. Some Mainers are encountering difficulty applying for unemployment benefits amid the crush of claims.

— Assistance could soon be on the way for those struggling to get by as businesses close and the economy grinds to a virtual halt. The Senate unanimously passed late Wednesday a $2.2 trillion rescue package that steers aid to businesses, workers and health care systems. That includes direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home.

— The National Park Service announced that Acadia National Park is closed due to the outbreak. Starting Thursday, Park Loop Road — including Ocean Drive — and all restrooms, carriage roads, campgrounds and visitor centers will close. That comes after tourism hub Bar Harbor, where the park is located, asked tourists and other visitors to stay away to halt the spread of the virus in the town.

— Mills has issued an executive order that allows physicians to obtain an emergency license to provide health care in Maine, either in person or through telemedicine. That will make it easier for out-of-state physicians to practice in Maine.

— As of Wednesday, the virus has sickened 53,453 people in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and caused 737 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— In Vermont, another person has died from the coronavirus, bringing its statewide death toll to eight. Six of those are connected to the Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Center. Massachusetts has reported 11 deaths from the virus, and Connecticut has reported 19 deaths. Earlier this week, New Hampshire reported its first virus-related death. No deaths have been reported in Rhode Island.


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