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Another Mainer has died as health officials confirmed 28 more cases of the new coronavirus in the state on Wednesday.
There have now been 1,254 confirmed and likely coronavirus cases across all of Maine’s counties, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 1,226 on Tuesday.
Of those, 1,174 have been confirmed positive, while 80 are likely positive, according to the Maine CDC.
The latest death involved a woman in her 70s from York County, bringing the statewide death toll to 62.
So far, 191 Mainers have been hospitalized at some point with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Of those, 37 people are currently hospitalized, with 18 in critical care and 12 on ventilators, according to the Maine CDC.
Meanwhile, another 766 people have fully recovered from the coronavirus, meaning there are 426 active and likely cases in the state. That’s up from 424 on Tuesday.
Here’s the latest on the coronavirus and its impact on Maine.
—Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday hinted that she may consider reopening the state’s economy on a regional basis and relaxing restrictions that have been criticized by the hospitality industry. Her Wednesday remarks contrasted with comments last Friday that she would stay the course on a plan that includes a 14-day quarantine for tourists into the summer in the face of ongoing health concerns.
—Maine has greatly increased its capacity to handle unemployment calls since mid-March and plans to hire more workers, but it can still handle only 1,800 of the roughly 50,000 calls it gets daily as the coronavirus places unprecedented stress on the system. That was a main takeaway from a Wednesday afternoon hearing where Maine lawmakers grilled Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman over the state’s struggles to process an unprecedented number of unemployment claims.
—More than 82,000 of Maine’s public school students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals as part of a new federal program aimed at helping families survive the pandemic, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said Wednesday. Maine is among 20 states participating in the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program, a new initiative authorized by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
— This spring’s crop of high school seniors can graduate in person, but a range of coronavirus-related restrictions means their ceremonies will look different from all others.
— A Portland meat-processing plant was set to reopen on Thursday after a top state health official said 51 employees of the Tyson Foods facility tested positive for the coronavirus when the entire workforce was screened. The plant shut down on Friday after an outbreak was discovered, but Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman said the company plans to reopen it on Thursday after the Maine CDC and an outside medical contractor tested its workforce for the virus.
—A Westbrook nursing facility has become the seventh of Maine’s long-term care centers to have a confirmed outbreak of the coronavirus, state health officials said Wednesday. Three residents and one employee of Springbrook Center have tested positive for the infection.
—Envision Healthcare Corp., which employs some of the doctors at three rural Maine hospitals, has been struggling to pay off $7 billion in debt after the coronavirus crisis forced medical systems all across the U.S. to delay lucrative elective services, according to Bloomberg. But on Friday, the company announced that it had found some breathing room by restructuring its debts, using so-called debt exchange transactions that were reviewed by its lenders.
— An evangelical church in Orrington is challenging Gov. Janet Mills’ prohibition on in-person worship services, alleging it violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Calvary Chapel late Tuesday filed the 45-page complaint in U.S. District Court in Bangor.
— The Maine court system on Wednesday extended many of the emergency deadlines set because of the coronavirus pandemic. It also expanded the list of cases and proceedings that may be scheduled and heard and implemented additional safety precautions for those entering courthouse facilities consistent with orders issued by Gov. Janet Mills.
—Somewhere caught between social distancing and endless Zoom happy hours, keeping in touch with friends and family in an intimate, personal way during the coronavirus era can be challenging. Sending mail is one great way to slow down the constant digital communication while showing someone you care, writes staff writer Sam Schipani. Here’s how you can make your own envelopes and cards with a few simple items.
—Only 15 miles and 20 minutes of driving separate the towns of Houlton, Maine, and Woodstock, New Brunswick. Travelers from both border towns are accustomed to driving quickly over, whether to buy something they can’t get on their side or to visit family and friends. But the closing of the border between the United States and Canada in late March to help curb the spread of COVID-19 has cut off the daily access the people in the two towns had to each other.
— Fewer Mainers have responded to the 2020 census than the national average, mainly because the coronavirus outbreak has halted U.S. Census Bureau field operations in less populated areas of the state. An accurate census count is important because it determines political representation and billions of dollars in federal funding to states for programs including Medicaid, highway projects, student loans and the food stamp program for the next 10 years, said Jeff Behler, director of the Census Bureau’s New York regional office, which includes Maine.
— As of Tuesday evening, the coronavirus has sickened 1,223,419 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 72,812 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
— Elsewhere in New England, there have been 4,420 coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts, 2,718 in Connecticut, 370 in Rhode Island, 92 in New Hampshire and 52 in Vermont.
Watch: Maine CDC coronavirus press conference, May 6