Today is Wednesday. There have now been 1,226 confirmed and likely cases of the new coronavirus across all of Maine’s counties, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials confirmed four new deaths — a man and a woman, both in their 70s, from Kennebec County, and a man in his 70s and a man in his 80s, both from Cumberland County — on Tuesday, bringing the statewide death toll so far during the outbreak to 61.
So far, 187 Mainers have been hospitalized at some point with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, while another 741 people have fully recovered from the coronavirus, meaning there are 424 active and likely cases in the state. That’s down from 428 on Monday.
Here’s the latest on the coronavirus and its impact in Maine.
— The Maine CDC will provide an update on the coronavirus this afternoon. The BDN will livestream the briefing.
— Health officials reported a spike of coronavirus cases at a Portland meat-processing plant on Tuesday that brought the total number of positive tests to 37, or nearly 10 percent of Tyson Foods’ full-time workforce there. The company closed the plant on Friday after a dozen positive cases were initially found among the plant’s 391 full-time employees, a workforce predominantly consisting of immigrants.
— The need for Maine’s social safety net is steadily increasing as the coronavirus pandemic continues, with applications for food and cash assistance doubling since February and the state’s expanded Medicaid program seeing its biggest enrollment jump since implementation last year. The numbers aren’t increasing nearly as much as unemployment claims, which have reached record heights since the pandemic began. But policy experts say safety net programs respond differently in times of economic trouble.
— Risky lending practices dragged down the U.S. economy during the Great Recession, but banks back on solid financial footing more than a decade later are looking to save businesses driven to the brink of collapse by the coronavirus pandemic. On top of Maine banks processing close to 26,000 forgivable federal loans worth $2.6 billion to local small businesses, they have been canceling fees and deferring some loan payments for those pinched for cash.
— Maine began to reopen businesses faster than most other states amid the coronavirus outbreak, but public pressure on Gov. Janet Mills has focused on sectors most sensitive to the summer tourist season. Many of the restrictions imposed in Maine have been similar to those of its neighbors and other states with common characteristics. At the same time, the count of confirmed cases here remains the lowest in New England on a per-capita basis and the ways in which Maine has been most cautious — with restrictions on lodging as the best example — have been top sources of contention.
— Beginning on Friday, Presque Isle’s Braden Theater will sell popcorn, candy and other concessions on Fridays and Saturdays. The idea came about after several residents told management they had missed the theater’s popcorn since the business closed on March 16, Braden manager Marlene McEachern said.
— A craft brewery in Ellsworth is planning to expand this summer to downtown Bar Harbor, despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and predictions that Maine’s 2020 summer tourist season could be severely affected. Whether it takes a few months or a year for Fogtown to fully open the new venue, co-owner Jon Stein said they are confident that it will be a good addition to the brewery’s operations.
— The Maine Department of Transportation is working out details of a plan to close Rockland’s Main Street to vehicular traffic next month and let businesses and restaurants utilize the roadway as an open-air market to serve customers while better adhering to social distancing standards. The plan is expected to be voted on at next week’s City Council meeting, though city officials say it will continue to evolve it through May as they consult with downtown stakeholders.
— The organizers of the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest have canceled the 2020 festival due to the coronavirus. The festival will return in 2021, with major events the weekend of Oct. 9-11. Organizers for the Common Ground Country Fair also have announced that this year’s fair will take place virtually instead of at the fairgrounds in Unity. Details about the virtual fair will be released in the coming weeks.
— The U.S. Treasury Department said Tuesday that it will begin doling out billions to help tribes respond and recover from the coronavirus more than a week after a congressional deadline and after being sued over who is eligible for the money. The $2.2 trillion federal rescue package approved in late March set aside $8 billion for tribal governments. The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians was among the tribes that filed the lawsuit against the Treasury Department.
— The U.S. Census Bureau is planning to restart some of its fieldwork in rural areas around the country. Maine is among the 13 states where the bureau will resume its 2020 head count.
— As of early Wednesday morning, the coronavirus has sickened 1,204,475 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 71,078 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
— Elsewhere in New England, there have been 4,212 coronavirus deaths in Massachusetts, 2,633 in Connecticut, 355 in Rhode Island, 92 in New Hampshire and 52 in Vermont.