As of Sunday, there are now 253 confirmed cases of the coronavirus spread across 12 Maine counties, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
That includes the first case reported in Somerset County. The Maine CDC also confirmed Sunday that another two Mainers have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, bringing the overall death toll in the state to three. One of them, a man in his 60s from Cumberland County, was a longtime employee of the Maine Department of Transportation, according to the governor’s office.
As confirmed cases continue to climb, here’s the latest about the coronavirus and its impact in Maine.
— The Maine CDC will provide an update on the coronavirus at 11:30 a.m. The BDN will livestream the briefing.
— The Maine CDC is investigating the possibility of “community transmission” of the coronavirus in Penobscot County after cases there doubled to more than 10 over the weekend. Having more than 10 cases is one of the criteria for determining community transmission. Kennebec County also saw confirmed cases there rise to 10 over the weekend. So far, community transmission has been confirmed only in Cumberland and York counties.
— A spokesman for Hannaford said Sunday that two workers at Scarborough and Oxford supermarkets have tested positive for the coronavirus. The spokesman, Eric Blom, said neither worker had been to work in several days.
— Hospitals across Maine are steeling themselves for a possible spike in patients with the coronavirus by stocking up on equipment and freeing up beds and workers. But while those efforts are critical from a public health perspective, they could make it harder in the long run for rural hospitals to sustain their current operations when many of them are already struggling to pay the bills.
— Public health officials have consistently urged people to practice “social distancing” and limit the time they spend outside the home around others to reduce the likelihood of catching the coronavirus and overwhelming the U.S. health care system. That can be difficult for older adults who are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus but still need food and medication. To help protect them, a Caribou musher, Hannah Lucas, is now putting her sled team to work delivering groceries and other necessities to those vulnerable to the coronavirus, helping them stay at home and minimizing their risk.
— Terry Dinkins, the founder of the Mansion Church on Center Street, which is dedicated to helping the city’s most needy residents, is calling on other houses of worship to open their doors overnight to 10 homeless people each since area shelters have limited the number of people they can take in due to the coronavirus pandemic.
— That move comes as most churches across the state, in compliance with Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ order prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people, have moved their worship services online to prevent the spread of the virus through their congregations. But for some, that doesn’t capture the shared experience of a Sunday service.
— Two weeks ago, WMPG Station Manager Jim Rand and his staff made the difficult decision to send everyone home for safety’s sake. Since then, Rand and a skeleton crew have been the only people in or out of the station on the University of Southern Maine campus in Portland. Rand said he’s not sure how long the 4,500-watt community station can operate this way but he’s convinced it’s worth the effort.
— Maine courts are limiting public hours to four a day, though not all courthouses will be open every day. That’s the latest move from the state court system to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The court system also cut back public hours last week, and state and federal courts have suspended jury trials. The court system also has vacated more than 12,000 warrants for unpaid fines and fees and is seeing newly arrested people every day in order to free up space in the jails.
— There’s a national shortage of protective face masks for medical workers. That has prompted some Mainers to craft homemade cloth face masks as a last resort. Even a Freeport-based sail-maintenance company, North Sails, is using its workforce to make more of the needed protective equipment. Now Boston-based New Balance, which has factories in Maine, has said it will shift some production away from shoemaking to face masks. Central Maine Power also announced Sunday that it will donate protective equipment, including face masks and respirators, to the Maine Emergency Management Agency.
— Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the dire prediction Sunday that the coronavirus could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans and infect millions of others.
— As of Sunday, the virus has sickened 122,653 people in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and caused 2,112 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
— Elsewhere in New England, there have been 48 deaths in Massachusetts, 34 in Connecticut, 12 in Vermont, three in New Hampshire and three in Rhode Island.