Maine reported 37 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and one additional death, as the state moves further toward a reopening of its economy and social activity.
Meanwhile, all seven employees who worked at the Maine Emergency Management Agency tested negative for COVID-19, the Maine CDC reported on Friday. They had called in sick on Thursday with symptoms similar to COVID-19.
With 56 additional recoveries, the number of Mainers with active cases of COVID-19 dropped from 703 to 683 on Friday. Current hospitalizations also declined, from 58 on Thursday to 53 on Friday. Hospitalizations peaked at 60 on May 25.
Overall, there have been 2,226 COVID-19 cases in Maine, with 85 deaths, 1,458 recoveries and 270 hospitalizations.
Dr. Nirav Shah, Maine CDC director, is expected to brief the media at 2 p.m today.
On Thursday, seven employees who work at the Maine Emergency Management Agency experienced symptoms similar to COVID-19 and called in sick, forcing the state to shift its daily media briefing to a virtual event.
In addition to Shah and Mills, top government officials such as Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, Economic and Community Development Director Heather Johnson and Labor Department Commissioner Laura Fortman have attended the briefings.
Shah said the state government is able to continue its work on COVID-19, even though the MEMA site has shifted entirely to a virtual operation with the suspected cases.
“There has been no interruption in the state’s overall response to COVID-19,” Shah said. He and MEMA director Peter Rogers briefed the media using the Zoom online program.
Shah on Thursday reported new outbreaks at the Happy Haven home for adults with intellectual disabilities in Auburn, and the Milestone Recovery substance use treatment center in Portland, and has begun investigating seven cases at a Proctor & Gamble plant in Auburn.
Indoor religious services can resume Friday under the reopening plan by the administration of Gov. Janet Mills. On Monday, retailers, state parks and beaches, lodging places and campgrounds can reopen for Maine residents and visitors who have quarantined for 14 days.
But Mills has continued to take heat over a decision to postpone indoor dining in three counties that were slated to re-open on Monday – Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties. Those three counties have higher incidence rates per capita of COVID-19, and Mills has pointed to greater likelihood of indoor transmission as a reason to delay indoor dining at restaurants.
Many have complained that Mills gave too little notice, making the change only a few days before the planned re-opening. Outdoor dining is still permitted.
Mills was criticized by a member of her own party on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Nate Libby, a Lewiston Democrat.
“Restaurants here in Lewiston were diligently preparing to open in just a few days under the guidance they had,” Libby wrote in a Facebook post. “They were ordering food for delivery. They were training staff on new physical distancing requirements. They were getting ready to operate safely, then they had the rug pulled out from under them.”