Legislators toured the Woodland Pulp and St. Croix tissue mills Thursday. A paper industry summit is set for Nov. 17.

State health officials have detected seven cases of the coronavirus in people associated with the Woodland Pulp paper mill in Baileyville, making it the second Maine paper manufacturer confirmed to be dealing with the virus right now.

Just one of the newly identified cases at Woodland Pulp was in a person from Maine, said Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, on Thursday.

The remainder were in people from other states: one person from Louisiana and five people from New York have also tested positive in connection with the disease cluster. Their connection to the Washington County factory has not been announced.

On Thursday, Shah said that Calais Regional Hospital and St. Croix Regional Family Health Center are now working to test the plant’s workers. A spokesperson for the mill didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

There is also an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 at the ND Paper facility in Rumford. At least 24 cases have now been detected in that outbreak since it was discovered in mid-September, and one employee died after testing positive.

Shah also renewed his concerns on Thursday that the virus is spreading throughout Maine among people who are not connected to any known outbreaks of the disease. While about 40 percent of Maine’s 488 new coronavirus cases have been in York County over the last two weeks, every other county has recorded at least one or two cases during that same time period.

“We are seeing the continual spread of COVID-19 in areas where previously there had been few cases,” Shah said.

He also said that the average age of people diagnosed with the disease during that time frame has been 40, which is down from 51 during the first three months of the pandemic. That’s concerning, Shah said, because federal data have shown that a rise in cases among younger people can precede a jump in cases among older people who are more vulnerable to the virus.

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