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As of Wednesday, there are now 796 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus spread across 15 of Maine’s counties, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another three people have died from the coronavirus, bringing the statewide death toll to 27.
So far, 130 Mainers have been hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Of those, 47 are currently hospitalized, with 20 in critical condition and seven on ventilators, according to Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another 333 people have fully recovered from the coronavirus.
Only one county — Piscataquis — has not recorded a confirmed case of the virus.
Here’s the latest on the coronavirus and Maine.
— Community spread of coronavirus is occurring in Androscoggin County, state officials announced Thursday. That means the virus is circulating among people who have not traveled to other places that have seen outbreaks of the virus or are not in regular contact with other people known to be infected. Androscoggin joins Cumberland County, where 343 cases have been confirmed and the bulk of the state’s deaths from the virus have been concentrated, and Penobscot and York counties, with 37 and 164 cases, respectively, according to the Maine CDC.
—Gov. Janet Mills’ administration is halting weekly briefings some department heads have held with the Legislature in recent weeks until it can figure out how to answer lawmakers’ questions during the coronavirus pandemic in a way that follows the state’s open meetings laws. Officials in Mills’ administration have held eight remote meetings open to the full Legislature over the past month since the body adjourned in late March. The Legislature provided no notice to the public that the meetings were happening, a violation of the state’s open meetings law, and no recordings of the meetings are available, according to Mills’ office.
—Commercial and residential renters across the state have been asking for protection from eviction as economic fallout makes it difficult for them to pay their rent. Gov. Janet Mills paused some evictions of residential and commercial tenants in an executive order on Thursday and created a $5 million rent relief program.
—One thorny issue throughout the pandemic has been how best to help and protect Maine’s homeless population. The Hope House shelter in Bangor moved 20 people into the Columbia Street Baptist Church on Tuesday night to adhere to social distancing guidelines, after plans fell through last week to house people who are homeless in a university gymnasium.
— Another long-term care and rehabilitation facility has reported an outbreak of the new coronavirus, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. These institutions are particularly vulnerable to the virus, as residents typically are elderly or suffering from conditions that compromise their immune systems and are housed in close quarters. Falmouth by the Sea is now the fifth long-term care facility in Maine to experience an outbreak of the respiratory infection that has caused a global pandemic. Three residents and one staff member at the 65-bed facility have tested positive for COVID-19, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said Thursday.
— A Portland-based distiller of spirits will start producing hand sanitizer and channeling donations to nonprofits serving Maine communities in response to the coronavirus. Maine Craft Distilling has hired five new employees, who now work at the distiller’s Washington Avenue distillery and Public House in Portland to assist with its new production line. Hundreds of customers have been visiting on a daily basis to pick up hand sanitizer.
—As medical students who are native to Maine are forced to return due to classes moving online, many are finding ways to help out health care workers using the training they have already.
— Maine’s two senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, were appointed to a presidential task force to advise on reopening the U.S. economy from the coronavirus-induced shutdown. Collins said in a release Thursday afternoon that it was “imperative” that the country develop a plan to reopen the economy “once is it determined safe to do so by medical experts.” In another statement, King said his contributions to the task force would be “based on expert advice,” saying that the path to reopening the economy should rely on ongoing data, rather than “an arbitrary date on the calendar.”
—Despite all the fear and uncertainty in the face of the pandemic, Mainers of all backgrounds have found meaningful ways to help out. A few people in Madawaska are helping the local workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic feel a little safer with face mask holders and face shields produced on 3D printers.
— Initial jobless claims fell dramatically in Maine and nationally last week after three prior weeks of record-high filings, though continuing claims rose as the coronavirus continued to place unprecedented pressure on the economy.
— Just three weeks after Renys closed all of its 14 stores because of the coronavirus outbreak, the iconic Maine retailer said it will offer curbside pickup for a limited number of purchases. The news comes a day after U.S. retail sales fell 8.7 percent in March, the worst decline in history, according to Census Bureau data that goes back to 1992. The coronavirus has caused thousands of stores to close and shoppers to stay home.
—Families across Maine are facing a brand new challenge right now, with thousands of children being educated at home. And it’s especially challenging for families of children with disabilities.
—Adding to the long list of events canceled in the wake of the pandemic, the inaugural 2020 Live + Work in Maine Open, part of the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour, will not take place this year. It had been scheduled June 8-14 at Falmouth Country Club in Portland. The tour features leading prospects who are battling to earn spots on the PGA Tour.
—Until now, Aroostook County native Jessica Meir has watched the unfolding coronavirus pandemic from orbit. That changes on Friday, when she and two fellow astronauts return to a changed planet.
— As of Thursday evening, the coronavirus has sickened 658,263 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 32,186 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
— Elsewhere in New England, the coronavirus has killed 1,245 in Massachusetts, 971 in Connecticut, 105 in Rhode Island, 34 in New Hampshire and 35 in Vermont.
Watch: Maine CDC, Gov. Janet Mills press conference, April 16