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WATCH: Maine CDC Reports 303 COVID-19 Cases, Five Deaths

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Nick Woodward
/
Maine Public

Updated March 31, 2020 at 2:25 p.m. ET.

Five people have died from COVID-19 in Maine, according to Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah. At an Augusta news briefing Tuesday, Shah said the state's death toll rose from three to five overnight with the deaths of two people who were hospitalized. "One was a woman in her 80s from York County. Another was a woman in her 80s from Kennebec County," he said.

Shah said there are now 303 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the state, and 57 people are hospitalized. Sixty-eight people have recovered.

Two of the new cases are among children.

"Neither of those young people is school-aged," he said, but declined to elaborate on what that means. "More information will be forthcoming."

Officials with the City of Portland and with the Maine Department of Corrections independently confirmed cases at the Oxford Street Shelter and Bolduc Correctional Facility, respectively.

Portland officials confirmed the Oxford Street Shelter case Tuesday afternoon.

City spokesperson Jessica Grondin says a woman who arrived at the shelter on March 25 from Massachusetts tested positive for the virus at a local hospital. She has been quarantined since March 28 in a dedicated isolation space at the city’s family shelter.

“We’re working with the CDC to identify any guests who have potentially been exposed. First of all, so we can inform them. And then second of all, so that we can have them stay in one of the quarantine spaces for the proper amount of time,” she says.

Grondin says city staff are promoting hygiene and trying to enforce social distancing at shelters, where guests are still sleeping only a few feet apart, and the city is also looking for additional quarantine spaces. The University of Southern Maine has announced that it will be converting a gym on its campus into a temporary 50-bed shelter.

And the Maine Department of Corrections says it has been notified that a worker at the Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren has tested positive for COVID-19. The DOC says the worker has not been on-site since Friday, March 20, and has been self-quarantining at home since that time.

The CDC has begun tracing the individual’s close contacts with help from staff at the minimum security facility, and those people are being notified to monitor for symptoms. The prison population is considered especially vulnerable for the coronavirus because of the inability to socially distance.

The DOC says it is taking measures to screen workers every day, to increase cleaning of common areas and to release several dozen prisoners early. So far no prisoners have tested positive.

Most of the statewide cases thus far are in Cumberland and York counties, where officials have said that community transmission is occurring. At the Augusta press conference, Shah said three other Maine counties - Androscoggin, Penobscot and Kennebec - now have more than 10 cases each, a sign that the disease could be spreading in those counties via community transmission.  Shah said work is now underway to determine whether that is the case.

At a 4:30 p.m. news conference Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills plans to announce new measures she says are intended to protect the health and safety of the state's residents, according to a press release issued Tuesday afternoon by the governor's office.

This story will be updated.