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Two Hancock County blueberry businesses now have confirmed outbreaks of the coronavirus after one was reported earlier this week at Hancock Foods and a second was reported Thursday at Merrill Blueberry Farms in Ellsworth.
Three workers have become infected at Merrill Blueberry Farms, said Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. A representative from the business did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Additionally, another three workers have tested positive for the virus at Hancock Foods, a blueberry processing and packaging business in the town of Hancock. That outbreak was first reported on Tuesday, and the additional cases there bring the total number of infected workers to eight.
On Tuesday, Kim Allen, an official with the company said the five initial infections were in migrant workers who were tested as a precautionary measure before they began work and interacted with other employees.
During a news conference on Thursday, Shah declined to say whether the other workers who have tested positive at both businesses are migrant workers.
But he credited the Maine Mobile Health Program, an organization that provides health care to the state’s seasonal farmworkers, with helping to quickly test workers when they arrive from out-of-state so that they can know whether to stay isolated to prevent others from catching the infection.
“It’s important to note that the results I’ve mentioned from Tuesday as well as today are the results of proactive testing, not reactive testing,” Shah said.
While Maine generally does not include new, confirmed coronavirus infections in the state’s official count when individuals are from out-of-state, it would include those numbers in the state’s count if a migrant worker listed their state-of-residence as Maine, as many of them do, Shah said. The state does separately keep track of infections in people from out of state that have been confirmed here.
Even with these two new outbreaks, Hancock County has seen a low number of coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. As of late Wednesday, the county had seen the fourth lowest rate of coronavirus infections in the state, according to Maine CDC data. The county had recorded 27 cases, one death and two hospitalizations.