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Janet Mills Announces New Business Aid As Maine CDC Adds 249 COVID-19 Cases, 3 Deaths

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
A man runs across a snow-coated street, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020, in Norway, Maine.

Three more people with COVID-19 have died in Maine, for a total of 194 deaths. The state CDC is also reporting 249 new cases on Monday.

The number of hospitalizations continued to grow over the holiday weekend, with 139 people currently receiving inpatient care.

That number is more than eight times what it was one month ago, but Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew says setting up auxiliary hospital sites isn’t yet necessary.

“We do have plans for those sites. We are dusting off those plans and making sure that they are viable in the current environment,” she says.

Lambrew says there’s no exact number of hospitalizations that would trigger auxiliary hospitals and that decisions will be based on whether regional health care providers can handle overflow if one hospital reaches capacity.

She also says increased access to therapeutics for COVID-19 could help reduce the need for additional hospital capacity.

Maine broke its record for hospitalizations with 62 on Nov. 12. It has more than doubled that record since then.

Amid the surge, Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is rolling out a new recovery grant program for businesses hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic such as restaurants, bars, lodging and retail shops.

Lambrew says the new program is funded by $40 million in federal CARES Act money that the governor has earmarked for businesses hobbled by restrictions designed to curb spread of the virus.

“These restrictions, these public health measures, come with an impact and we’re very sensitive to it. We will do our best to use the resources within our control to support Maine businesses, but we do need more federal help,” she says.

Businesses will have to demonstrate financial hardship via gross sales losses between March and September of this year compared to the same time period in 2019.

The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development will administer the program and its application portal will open at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The state will accept applications until funds are depleted.

The Mills administration is also offering grants to health care organizations affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting on Tuesday, hospitals, nursing homes, congregate care and community providers with more than 250 employees who serve MaineCare recipients can apply for financial relief.

The grant program is funded by $30 million in federal CARES Act funding. Organizations that qualify will receive up to $100,000 to cover expenses such as payroll, rent and operating costs.

Maine Public reporter Patty Wight contributed to this story.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.