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CDC reports one new death, outbreak at York County jail

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Aug 20, 2020

Augusta — At Thursday's press briefing, Maine Center for Disease Prevention and Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah announced the state's 128th death from COVID-19, a women in her 80s from York County.

He also announced that the CDC had learned earlier in the day about an outbreak of the illness at the York County Jail, with four jail employees testing positive for the coronavirus. Shah said the CDC had been in touch with officials from the jail and the York County Sheriff's Office and was working on getting staff and inmates tested and making sure the agency had necessary personal protection equipment. He noted that it was very early in the investigation, and it had not yet been determined whether there were any additional cases associated with the outbreak.

In answer to a reporter's question Gov. Janet Mills said guards are required to wear masks when interacting with inmates, and as far as she knew, they were doing so.

Shah gave new information about an outbreak associated with a wedding at the Tritown Baptist Church in East Millinocket and the reception following at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket Aug. 7. He said the state had issued an Imminent Health Hazard citation to the inn, because it violated the 50-person limit on indoor gatherings when it hosted the reception for about 65 people, and that the owners had immediately agreed to comply with the rule from now on.

He said 32 people have now tested positive for COVID-19, 26 cases have been confirmed, and six are probable, with at least seven cases in children under 18. He added that the CDC's primary focus is "on the care and wellbeing of those who are ill."

Mills announced that in order to aid small businesses and nonprofits that have not been able to receive help up to now, or that need additional assistance, her administration is launching the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program, backed by $200 million in CARES Act funds. The program will help businesses and nonprofits based in Maine, or that have at least 50% of their workforce in the state, that suffered business disruptions resulting from the pandemic. Eligible organizations must also have fewer than 50 employees and meet other criteria set by the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Applications will be accepted starting Aug. 21 for grants to be awarded in October, the governor said.

Shah noted that 4,253 people have tested positive for the coronavirus to date, and increase of 19 since Wednesday; 3,679 people have recovered, an uptick of 17. He added that, with 2,935 tests done yesterday, the single-day positive rate was 0.44%. Maine's seven-day positivity rate is 0.78%, he said, compared to the U.S. rate of 7.5%.

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