June 04, 2020
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March 31 morning update: The latest on the coronavirus and Maine

As of Monday, there are now 303 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus spread across 12 Maine counties, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s up 28 from Monday, when 275 cases were reported.

The Maine CDC reports that 49 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, while another 41 have recovered and been released from isolation.

Here’s the latest on the coronavirus and its impact in Maine.

— The Maine CDC will provide an update on the coronavirus at 11:30 a.m., according to spokesman Robert Long. The BDN will livestream the briefing.

— Of those who have been stricken with the coronavirus, 43 of them are health care workers, according to the Maine CDC. That includes two doctors from Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, a nurse at Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast and a provider at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston. Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine CDC, said Monday that there’s no evidence any of them became infected on the job. ( Are you a medical worker fighting the coronavirus? The BDN wants to hear from you.)

— An expected shipment of protective equipment used by workers fighting the coronavirus will be the last from a federal stockpile for an indefinite period and falls far short of the state’s needs, Shah said, calling the amount given to the state “paltry.” “What we understand is that this third shipment may be the last case the Maine CDC receives for quite some time. We are hoping that’s not true, but once again, hope is not an operational strategy in an emergency situation,” he said during a Monday press briefing.

— The biggest hurdle facing Mainers among the tens of thousands trying to file for unemployment benefits seems to be an inability to contact the state Labor Department for assistance, an issue that is likely to be compounded as eligibility expands. Between Monday and Friday, nearly three dozen people responded to a Bangor Daily News reader inquiry saying they experienced difficulty filing claims. For many, their issues range from being locked out of accounts, difficulty in navigating the online system to unanswered questions or contradictions about the validity of their claims. That comes as weekly jobless claims surged to 21,459 from March 15 to 21, up from 634 the week before and well above those seen during the Great Recession.

— The city of Portland last week became the first municipality in the state to order residents to stay at home to halt the virus’ spread. That came just as Democratic Gov. Janet Mills ordered most nonessential businesses in the state to close. Portland city councilors voted unanimously Monday night to extend that five-day order for another 28 days. Portland residents may only leave their homes to access essential services from grocery stores, pharmacies and a small list of other essential businesses during that time. Outdoor exercise and dog walking is permitted.

— Bar Harbor town councilors took their own steps Monday to prevent the virus’ spread there, suspending lodging services to all nonessential travelers from April 8 to April 30. That’s aimed at limiting the number of visitors from away coming to the state amid the pandemic, a complaint that has surfaced in a number of coastal communities from the Down East coast to York. Earlier this month, Bar Harbor asked that visitors temporarily stay away from the tourism hub.

— Gas prices are cheaper than they have been in about five years now that motorists are being urged to travel only when necessary. The average price of a gallon of gas in Maine fell below $2 last week, according to Gas Buddy, a website that monitors prices nationwide.

— The University of Maine System has canceled the in-person graduation ceremonies scheduled for May at all seven of its universities.

— Two of America’s largest health insurers, Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc., said they will waive out-of-pocket costs for patients who need treatment for the coronavirus.

— As of Monday, the virus has sickened 140,904 people in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and caused 2,405 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— Elsewhere in New England, coronavirus deaths have reached 56 in Massachusetts, 36 in Connecticut, 12 in Vermont, four in Rhode Island and three in New Hampshire. Maine has recorded three deaths from the virus.

 


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