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Maine to get fewer shots than hoped; school safety downgrade

December 19, 2020 GMT

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Federal authorities have informed Maine that it will receive fewer of the new Pfizer coronavirus vaccines next week than it had expected.

Maine public health officials had planned for 13,650 doses, but the number will instead be 8,775.

“The news that Maine and other states will now receive fewer doses of Pfizer vaccines next week, with no explanation, is frustrating and disrupts our distribution plans,” Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement.

The state is in the midst of vaccinating front-line health care workers against the virus. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Friday that more than 2,200 people have received the first dose.

Shah has said he expects the vaccine to reach all corners of the state by late spring or early summer. However, it’s too early to know if next week’s delay could change that, he said.

The reduction in doses next week means the state will not receive enough to fully launch a retail pharmacy program to vaccinate residents and staff of all long-term care facilities in Maine, Shah said.

“We’re hoping in the coming days, if not weeks, we’ll see more stability in what we can expect for weeks four, five, six, so we’ll be able to know if there will be further ripple effects,” Shah said.

Officials in the administration of President Donald Trump have played down the possibility of risk caused by the delays. Officials in states around the country have experienced similar delays and expressed frustration over them.

Maine previously ordered 12,675 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 24,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The first Pfizer batch arrived this week and the first Moderna batch is expected next week. The U.S. Food and Drug Association issued an emergency authorization of the Moderna vaccine on Friday night.

In other pandemic-related news:

THE NUMBERS

The rate of infection continued to rise in Maine.

The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 5.55%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine, the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 2.13% on Dec. 3 to 5.55% on Dec. 17.

Public health authorities in the state have reported more than 18,000 cases of infection and a total of 281 deaths from the virus.

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CRUISE DELAY

The cruise ship industry in Maine is preparing for a delay to the state’s 2021 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. cruise ship business was placed under a “no sail order” from the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March. A framework for resumption of operations replaced that order in October.

CruiseMaine, which is part of the Maine Office of Tourism, met earlier this week to get ready for the coming season. CruiseMaine executive director Sarah Flink said the organization’s goals include helping ports in the state with regulatory compliance amid the pandemic.

Flink said “the beginning of our season is still several months away and may very well be delayed further.”

Flink also said that resumption of cruise operations in the state will mean cooperating with tour operators, medical facilities, shore-side workers and other stakeholders.

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RESTAURANT LICENSE

The owners of Sunday River Brewing Co. are challenging a state decision not to renew their license.

Two Brothers LLC cited constitutional arguments in its appeal and accused the state of singling out the restaurant because of “outspoken dissatisfaction” with executive orders imposed by Gov. Mills.

The restaurant, which is operated independently of the Sunday River ski resort, contends it’s in “100% in compliance” with rules, attorney Edward Dilworth III told the Sun Journal.

The state has suspended Two Brothers’ license several times since co-owner Rick Savage defied the governor and gave out her cellphone number on national television. The restaurant’s license is due to expire Saturday.

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SCHOOL STATUS

The Mills administration added the state’s most populous county to its list of counties that are at moderate risk of the virus in schools.

Maine uses a color-coded system to designate the level of risk to schools. Cumberland County has been added to the “yellow,” or moderate, category, the Mills administration said Friday. Other counties in that category include Androscoggin, Oxford and York. All other counties are designated “green,” or low risk.

State education officials have said schools in “yellow” counties might consider extra precautions, such as limiting the number of people in school buildings.