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Maine Reports 16 New Cases Of COVID-19, And More To Come; 1 Additional Death

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

Another Maine resident has died of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, as the number of cases in Maine rose on Wednesday by 16, for a total of 1,056. But Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah said some additional cases have just been identified.Shah said new cases turned up Wednesday at Hope House in Bangor, and are not included in Wednesday's totals.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the shelter in Bangor confirmed 17 cases of COVID-19. That brings the total number of positive cases to 21 for the shelter, which provides transitional housing and other services for those experiencing homelessness.

The cases were identified after a universal testing protocol was implemented following four earlier cases at the Hope House shelter, dating back to April 18.

Dr. Noah Nesin, the chief medical officer at Penobscot Community Health Care, or PCHC, which operates the shelter, says a number of people have come through the shelter over the past two weeks.

"And we've been able to contact all of them and test all of them, which is a testament to the relationship that our staff has there with the people that they serve," Nesin says.

PCHC CEO Laurie Dwyer says the shelter has been operating at capacity for the past several weeks and has no plans to close. She says staff have implemented twice-daily health screenings, mandatory mask use for all, and spread residents out among the shelter and an auxiliary location. Those testing positive are being quarantined at a local hotel.

"The way we have balanced it to implement all of the precautions we possibly can,” Dwyer says. “Ensure staff are protected with the appropriate PPE and continue to serve people in the way we did before."

In addition to these cases, Dr. Shah said eight cases have been diagnosed among workers at the food processing plant Tyson Foods in Portland. Shah said that the plant is cooperating with CDC recommendations to ensure safety.

"Each and everyone of those eight individuals is not working right now."

Shah said the CDC is working towards performing universal testing for COVID-19 at the plant. "We are working with the facility to find a way to idle the plant so workers can still show up, maybe not do the job they previously would do, but perhaps something else, and still have an opportunity to discharge our first goal, which is to get everyone tested"

Shah said the latest Mainer to die of the coronavirus was a woman in her 70s from Cumberland County, bringing the total number of deaths in Maine to 52.

Over the course of the pandemic, 615 people have recovered, 30 more than Tuesday, and 166 people have been hospitalized. Of those, 32 remain hospitalized, 17 of them in intensive care. Seven of the ICU patients are on ventilators.

Thus far, 232 of Maine's cases — and 29 deaths — arose at long-term care facilities, Shah said. Health care workers have also been hard hit, he said, with 247 of them diagnosed with the disease.

The new cases come a day after Gov. Janet Mills announced a plan for a phased-in easing of coronavirus-related emergency restrictions. 

Updated April 29, 2020 at 5:12 p.m. ET.