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Four more Mainers have died from the new coronavirus, bringing the state death toll up to 24.
There are now 770 coronavirus cases spread across 15 of Maine’s counties, the Maine CDC reported Wednesday. That’s up from 734 on Tuesday.
Of those who have tested positive, 126 Maine residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, while another 305 people have fully recovered from it. There are 22 confirmed cases in the ICU, nine cases on ventilators and 26 cases in other hospital settings.
Only one county — Piscataquis — still hasn’t recorded a confirmed case of the coronavirus. “Community transmission” has been confirmed in Cumberland, Penobscot and York counties.
Here’s the latest on the coronavirus and its impact in Maine.
—Union leaders representing Maine nurses, firefighters, first responders and mill workers on Wednesday called on President Donald Trump to use the full power of the federal government to ensure frontline workers have the protective equipment necessary to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Maine labor leaders said the federal government’s lack of action on personal protective equipment, or PPE, is putting frontline workers at risk, and asked that Trump utilize the Defense Production Act to ramp up the production and distribution of PPE amid a nationwide shortage.
—There hasn’t been much good news lately when it comes to the economy. But business took a turn for the better recently for a Fort Kent diner when a St. John Valley native who had a hankering for baked goods from back home asked the owners to send him a favorite treat — whoopie pies. The man shared the treats, and before they knew it, the diner’s owners were receiving requests from all over the country to ship out whoopie pies. The sudden surge of orders may keep them afloat through the pandemic.
—Maine Medical Center enrolled its first patient with severe coronavirus symptoms into a clinical trial for the drug remdesivir on April 9, according to hospital spokesperson Caroline Cornish. The hospital now has three patients in remdesivir trials. The drug, manufactured by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc., which also is sponsoring the studies, has sparked hopes among some public health officials in the race to find an effective treatment for the virus.
—Joining the long list of state parks that are now shut down, Baxter State Park will be closed to camping, vehicle access and travel above the tree line until further notice, with a target opening date of July 1.
— A Brunswick man is concerned he could lose access to the drug he says gave him his life back, as it’s being used experimentally to treat COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine tablets are “currently in shortage” according to the FDA, which is allowing the drug to be used for hospitalized coronavirus patients. The American Medical Association says some physicians are prescribing it for themselves, their families and colleagues for prevention, which the group strongly opposes. Effective April 11, Maine pharmacists are being told to verify new prescriptions for hydroxychloriquine and two other drugs are legitimate and not for prevention, limit prescriptions for diagnosed cases of coronavirus to a 14-day supply, and continue filling 90-day supplies for existing prescriptions used to treat other conditions.
—We now know that in the six critical days after top Chinese officials secretly determined they likely were facing a pandemic from a new coronavirus, the city of Wuhan at the epicenter of the disease hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people; millions began traveling through for Lunar New Year celebrations. President Xi Jinping warned the public on the seventh day, Jan. 20. But by that time, more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence. Here’s an analysis of the delay.
—With no revenue coming in, many short-term rental owners in Maine and across the country are considering switching over to the long-term market. Some of the roughly 800 registered short-term rental units in Portland could go back on the market because of the pandemic. But Airbnb, the titan of short-term rentals, is offering owners incentives to wait out the virus.
— Government relief checks began arriving in Americans’ bank accounts this week as the economic damage to the U.S. from the coronavirus piled up Wednesday and sluggish sales at reopened stores in Europe and China made it clear that business won’t necessarily bounce right back when the crisis eases. The world’s biggest economy began issuing one-time payments this week to tens of millions of people as part of its $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, with adults receiving up to $1,200 each and $500 per child to help them pay the rent or cover other bills.
—In related news, American industry collapsed in March as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy. Manufacturing and overall industrial production posted the biggest declines since the United States demobilized after World War II.
— As of Wednesday morning, the coronavirus has sickened 632,878 people in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as caused 27,850 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
— Elsewhere in New England, there have been 1,108 deaths from the coronavirus in Massachusetts, 868 in Connecticut, 87 in Rhode Island, 30 in Vermont and 32 in New Hampshire.
Watch: Maine CDC press conference, April 15