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There are now 1,095 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus spread across all of Maine’s counties, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials confirmed the death of a woman in her 50s from Cumberland County, bringing the statewide death toll to 53.
So far, 170 Mainers have been hospitalized at some point with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, while 631 people have fully recovered from the coronavirus, meaning there are 464 active cases in the state.
Here’s the latest on the coronavirus and its impact in Maine:
— Some Mainers who have seen their previous unemployment claims denied will automatically get benefits through a new federal effort launching on Friday, though workers will initially receive the minimum benefit in an effort to expedite the program.
— A number of Maine dentists had been expecting to reopen their practices at the beginning of May when Gov. Janet Mills made her announcement about a four-phase reopening of the state’s economy. But after a week of confusing messages, they are now allowed to provide emergency treatment only.
— Black and African-American people account for 5 percent of coronavirus cases in which racial information is disclosed in Maine despite making up only 1.6 percent of the population, suggesting that racial disparities seen in other states also exist here.
— “We look at it this way: anyone wearing a face covering in public is actively participating in the effort to open more businesses sooner. And they are making the public a little safer for everyone else. We all should want to be part of that effort, no matter what mandates we face,” writes the BDN editorial board.
— Despite the announcement of a statewide plan to gradually lift coronavirus restrictions, the City of Augusta will lay off 32 workers by the end of May to balance revenues shortfalls and increases in pandemic-inspired spending, the Kennebec Journal reported.
— Many Maine barbers and salon owners are finding a checklist of rigorous safety protocols for personal services so burdensome that they are puzzled the state would expect them to open at all.
— Have you exhausted unemployment benefits? We want to hear from you.
— Hemphill Farms in Presque Isle gave away more than 20,000 pounds of potatoes on Thursday to people across the area. The extra large Russet Burbank potatoes, averaging a pound each, would have been sold to the foodservice industry for products such as french fries, but the farm lost its market because of changes in the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic
— The federal government is providing $75.5 million to the Guilford medical products company that is expanding production of the testing swabs that are critically needed to detect the coronavirus. Puritan Medical Products plans to add around 140 new workers to boost production of the swabs at a second location in Pittsfield, the BDN reported Wednesday.
— Rockland leaders will consider turning their downtown into an open-air market to comply with coronavirus social-distancing restrictions and to give businesses a better chance of surviving the pandemic, according to the Courier Gazette.
— The seasonal opening of the observatory at the top of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge will be delayed until further notice. The observatory typically is closed each year from November through April.
— This year’s Little League World Series and the championship tournaments in six other Little League divisions have been canceled.
— The next rally to protest the state’s coronavirus-related restrictions will violate the governor’s order prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people during the pandemic, an organizer said. Rep. Chris Johansen, R-Monticellom said Tuesday he knew he wouldn’t be able to get a permit due to Gov. Janet Mills’ prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people during this stage of the pandemic, but he said he would try to follow the city ordinance for the upcoming rally.
— The Portland Symphony Orchestra canceled its concerts through June due to coronavirus concerns and asked ticket-holders to donate the price of their tickets to the orchestra as a donation, the Portland Press Herald reports.
— Many Dover-Foxcroft area farmers agree that one way to alleviate the threat to the food supply chain during the COVID-19 pandemic is to remove some of the links. Concerns about the food supply chain have been heightened in recent weeks by the closing of several major food-processing plants across the nation due to employees testing positive for coronavirus.
— Federal courts in Maine will continue to limit operations through June 30 while the state court system is likely to extend its limited-hours schedule through at least May. In March, state and federal courts curtailed some hearings to help reduce community transmission of the coronavirus and to protect employees who interact with the public.
— Amtrak’s Downeaster rail service has been suspended through the end of May amid ongoing efforts to halt the spread of the new coronavirus. The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which manages the service, announced Wednesday the extension of a temporary service suspension through at least May 31, according to spokesperson Natalie Bogart.
— “While millions of businesses have been impacted by COVID-19, no industry has been more affected than hospitality and travel,” writes Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and Steve Hewins, president and CEO of Hospitality Maine, in today’s guest opinion column.
— More than 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the U.S. economy slid further into a crisis that is becoming the most devastating since the 1930s.
— Longtime Presque Isle High School teacher Trevor Esposito had meticulously followed the COVID-19 pandemic as it spread across China. Soon, he found it entering his new home in Italy.
— Businesses including barber shops, salons and car dealerships can reopen on Friday as part of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to gradually reopen Maine’s economy. The four-phase plan aims to allow businesses to recover from the coronavirus-induced shutdown while preventing a resurgence of the disease. But regulators will not initially verify that the practices are being followed.
— A staffing firm that employs some of the doctors in three rural Maine hospitals — including two that are now in bankruptcy and suing the federal government for stimulus funding — is reportedly considering filing for bankruptcy itself as a result of steep revenue shortfalls related to the coronavirus.
— Here are the answers to your questions on the reopening of Maine’s economy
— As of 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the coronavirus has sickened 1,067,289 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 62,870 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
— Elsewhere in New England, there have been 3,405 coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts, 2,257 in Connecticut, 266 in Rhode Island, 66 in New Hampshire and 49 in Vermont.