Today is Thursday. There have now been 1,254 cases of the new coronavirus across all of Maine’s counties since the outbreak began in March, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials confirmed on Wednesday the death of 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, while 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 in Maine.
— Gov. Janet Mills and the Maine CDC will provide an update on the coronavirus at noon. The BDN will livestream the briefing.
— 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. Mills appeared open to considering an earlier start to certain businesses than originally envisioned in her four-stage economic rollout plan released last week. 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.
— A Portland meat-processing plant is 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 outbreak includes 14 positive cases announced Wednesday, on top of another 37 cases at the plant reported on Tuesday. The total represents roughly an eighth of the plant’s 391 full-time workforce, predominantly made up of immigrant workers.
— 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 disease.
— Up to 221,000 Maine residents could lose the health insurance they receive through their jobs if unemployment levels this year reach Great Depression heights, ultimately increasing the ranks of Maine’s uninsured by almost 50 percent, a new analysis shows. The newly released study from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute created two scenarios for how deep the loss of health insurance could be.
— An Augusta firefighter was hospitalized after testing positive for the coronavirus. The firefighter was the Augusta Fire Department’s first case of coronavirus. Five other firefighters are in 14-day quarantine and the North Augusta Fire Station was immediately closed and cleaned.
— The decision to wear a mask in public is becoming a political statement — a moment to pick sides in a brewing culture war over containing the coronavirus. The mask is increasingly a visual shorthand for a debate pitting those willing to follow health officials’ guidance and cover their faces against those who feel it violates their freedom or buys into a threat they think is overblown.
— Authorities in many countries are drawing up plans for how to cope with a resurgence in outbreaks even as they slowly work to reopen businesses and resume other activity halted to combat the pandemic. Public health officials in the U.S. say they are worried as about half of states ease their shutdowns, with cellphone data showing that people are becoming restless and increasingly leaving home. Many states have not put in place the robust testing that experts believe is necessary to detect and contain new outbreaks.
— As of early Thursday morning, the coronavirus has sickened 1,228,609 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 73,431 deaths, according to the 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.