Today is Wednesday. There have now been 1,040 confirmed coronavirus cases spread across all of Maine’s counties, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
No new deaths were reported Tuesday, leaving the statewide death toll at 51.
So far, 163 Mainers have been hospitalized at some point with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, while another 585 people have fully recovered from the coronavirus, meaning there are 404 active cases in the state. That’s down from 423 on Monday.
Here’s the latest on the coronavirus and its impact in Maine.
— The Maine CDC will provide an update on the coronavirus later today. The BDN will livestream the briefing.
— Certain Maine businesses can reopen on Friday as part of a gradual plan to lift coronavirus-related restrictions, though many hospitality businesses could remain closed deep into the summer, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said Tuesday. The first stage of the plan continues the governor’s earlier prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people as well as a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers coming to Maine. It also requires individuals to wear cloth face coverings in settings where it is difficult to maintain social distancing.
— Two bankrupt Maine hospitals have warned that they could both have to close their doors by the end of June if they don’t receive funding through a federal loan program meant to help small businesses keep their staff employed through the coronavirus crisis. Both Calais Regional Hospital and Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln have been denied access to the Paycheck Protection Program because its rules disqualify entities that have filed for bankruptcy protection from receiving funds.
— As health care systems in coronavirus hot spots are stretched thin, Maine hospitals and the state prepared for a much larger onslaught of coronavirus cases than the one that has materialized so far here. Hospitals added critical care beds and ventilators for a potential uptick in patients infected with the coronavirus. The state mobilized volunteers with medical expertise who could staff hospitals if they became overwhelmed, and it planned for two overflow sites if hospitals ran out of capacity. But Maine seems to have flattened the coronavirus curve enough — reducing numbers of new cases — that hospitals haven’t needed to tap into those resources to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
— Almost seven weeks before the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Maine, emergency medical responders were on the lookout for people who might be carriers of the highly contagious virus. Those who transport sick or injured people are among those at greatest risk of catching the coronavirus because of their close contact with people as they respond to medical emergencies at their homes and care for them in ambulances. The new protocols crews started using in late January give them tools to suss out if a patient might be a carrier of the virus so they can respond accordingly.
— The forgivable federal loans aimed at helping businesses stay afloat and pay their employees have unexpectedly caused a conundrum for some owners who are holding off on rehiring workers and others who are considering giving back all or part of the money. At the heart of the problem is the conditions on how and when the money can be spent in a way that the business owners can get the loan forgiven. Many say the U.S. Small Business Administration still hasn’t provided clear guidelines on forgivable uses of the money.
— Self-employed workers and independent contractors will be able to apply for federally funded unemployment benefits starting Friday, the Maine Department of Labor announced on Tuesday.
— In a fragmented health system — which encompasses dozens of insurers, 50 state regulators and thousands of independent doctor practices — the shift to cost-free telemedicine for patients is going far less smoothly than the speeches and press releases suggest. In some cases, doctors are billing for telephone calls that used to be free. Patients say doctors and insurers are charging them upfront for video appointments and phone calls, not just copays but sometimes the entire cost of the visit, even if it’s covered by insurance.
— As of early Wednesday morning, the coronavirus has sickened 1,012,583 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 58,355 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
— Elsewhere in New England, there have been 3,153 coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts, 2,087 in Connecticut, 239 in Rhode Island, 60 in New Hampshire and 47 in Vermont.