A look at coronavirus developments around New England:
Maine Gov. Janet Mills said Saturday she tested negative for the virus that causes COVID-19 after she was exposed through a member of her executive protection unit.
In a statement distributed by her office, Mills, a Democrat, said Saturday her case is proof that “masks work.”
“If my executive protection unit member had not been wearing a mask last Saturday while I was in the vehicle with them, I firmly believe I would have contracted the virus,” Mills said.
“No matter where you are or who you are with, taking these simple steps protects you and anyone you come into contact with,” Mills said. “Even someone who has limited contact with the public, like myself, can inadvertently be exposed to this dangerous virus, through nobody’s fault.”
COVID 19 INVESTIGATIONS
Maine’s top public health official says the state is considering scaling back investigations into cases of COVID-19 to focus on the most vulnerable populations, as some other states have already done.
Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah warned Friday that “continued sustained ferocious levels of community transmission” is prompting the discussion.
The Portland Press Herald reports Shah said his team will evaluate possible changes over the weekend and make an announcement Monday.
“For now, I wanted Maine people to hear from me directly about the situation we’re in and the difficult choices we’re facing,” he said Friday.
Shah said the state opened investigations into 14 new outbreaks on Thursday and Friday, possibly tied to gatherings over Thanksgiving.
“Things were already acute before and now are becoming more so,” Shah said. “I fear that this may sadly be our new normal, and even worse, I expect it to get worse, perhaps even far worse.”
With the first doses of coronavirus vaccines due in Massachusetts by the middle of the month, the head of the state’s vaccine advisory board says a big challenge will be to find health care workers to administer the vaccines when they’re already busy with COVID-19 patients.
The state is expected to receive 300,000 units of vaccine by the end of the year.
“That puts a real strain on our staff, already strained with staff in the first place,” said Dr. Paul Biddinger. “Mobilizing additional staff is necessary and will happen, but it’s extremely hard to do.”
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health says in its draft plan that health care workers, people at the greatest risk of severe illness and people 65 and older will get top priority for the vaccine.
Biddinger tells WCVB the plan is to stagger doses in case side effects from the vaccine makes the providers sick.
“Side effects are a good thing,” he said. “It means the immune system is reacting. Nonetheless, we don’t want all the nurses on (the) same unit to be out the same day.”
An official with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation says the pandemic could make it harder to keep roads plowed.
It’s possible an outbreak in some of the state’s maintenance sheds timed with a nor’easter could leave some roads unplowed, said David Gray, the department’s winter maintenance program specialist.
Gray tells the Concord Monitor there are 93 sheds around the state where trucks, equipment and salt or sand supplies are kept. There are between three and 15 state workers in each shed. And the number can double with contractors.
If a case of COVID-19 is reported among those employees, it’s possible that everybody will have to quarantine.
“If COVID goes into a shed and wipes out a shed, then we’ve got to figure out some way of getting that road taken care of. If you’ve got 10 operators, you’ve lost 10 trucks,” he said. “You have to sanitize the shed, find new operators to go into these seats.”
Gov. Gina Raimondo says state officials are working with hospitals and other health care providers to ensure they have the supplies and personnel to receive, store, handle and administer vaccine when they arrive.
Raimondo says 10,000 doses of one of the two vaccines expected to be approved by federal officials soon are expected in the state by mid-December. An additional 19,000 doses of the second vaccine are due by the end of the month.
“That’s not going to flip the switch on COVID-19 in Rhode Island,” she said in a Friday statement. “In a state of 1 million people, 29,000 doses will only go so far.”
But she said officials “are ready to hit the ground running and distribute these vaccines as quickly and safely as possible to our health care providers.”
As the coronavirus has spread to long-term care facilities in Vermont, the state is ramping up testing in those institutions.
Starting Monday, staff at assisted living and residential care facilities in Vermont will be tested for the coronavirus twice a week using a PCR test, said Human Services Secretary Mike Smith on Friday.
The state will also make antigen tests available to such facilities to use upon identification of symptomatic residents or staff and rapid antigen tests to test staff daily at all skilled nursing facilities, he said. The state is also implementing weekly PCR testing for those staff, he said.
On Saturday, the Vermont Health Department reported 127 new cases of the virus, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to just under 4,900 cases.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 103.14 on Nov. 20 to 92.57 on Dec. 4.
There are currently 22 people hospitalized, including four in intensive care.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 increased to 79, up two from the number reported Friday.
The head of a Connecticut casino has announced the temporary furlough of 130 employees and is closing some of its hotels and gaming areas for now.
Foxwoods Resort Casino interim chief executive officer Jason Guyot told employees this week that heightened spread of the COVID-19 virus and state restrictions has spurred a “significant” reduction in volume at the casino.
The Day reports Guyot says he hopes to rehire furloughed workers — including support staff members — after New Year’s. Most of the furloughed employees worked in now-shuttered parts of the casino, which include the Rainmaker Casino and Fox Tower hotel.
The casino cut the Fox Tower’s gaming floor hours to noon to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday, and will shut down bingo operations on Mondays and Tuesdays. The Great Cedar Hotel will close Monday through Wednesday.
Connecticut is requiring travelers visiting for more than 24 hours from certain states to quarantine for 14 days or test negative for COVID-19.
Guyot said restrictions on Massachusetts travelers have proved tough for Foxwoods, and says the casino is still welcoming Massachusetts residents to stay for multiple nights.
The casino closed for 11 weeks amid the pandemic and re-opened its doors June 1.