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Maine: Collins boosts diaper act; South Africa variant found

March 4, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Sen. Susan Collins has joined a bipartisan push to provide millions of dollars in emergency money to help get diapers to families during the coronavirus pandemic.

Collins, a Maine Republican, joined a coalition that wants to pass the COVID-19 Diaper Assistance Act. The proposal would provide $200 million for diaper assistance.

Collins said the pandemic has created high need for services from diaper banks. Even before the pandemic, the banks were able to meet only about 5% of diaper needs, she said.

“Diaper banks play a critical role in our communities by helping families keep their babies healthy and safe,” Collins said. “These nonprofits distribute tens of millions of diapers annually, but the pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis have created unprecedented demand for these services.”

The proposers of the diaper act said nonprofit groups alone can’t fully address the growing need for diapers during the pandemic.

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In other pandemic news in Maine:

THE NUMBERS

The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 1.75%. 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 1.67% on Feb. 17 to 1.75% on March 3.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday that there have been more than 45,000 positive cases of the virus in the state since the start of the pandemic. Maine CDC has also recorded 705 deaths.

Nearly 10% of the state has completed the vaccination series for coronavirus, said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the state is hopeful to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of swiftly vaccinating teachers and Gov. Janet Mills’ goal of extending the vaccine to younger residents in the coming months.

“We will continue to hold tight to that plan,” Lambrew said.

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NEW VARIANT

Shah said Thursday a variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in South Africa has been found in Maine. He said the discovery of the variant was “not unexpected.”

The variant was found in an individual in Cumberland County, Shah said.

Maine investigators previously found three cases of a variant of the virus that was first identified in the United Kingdom. Shah said the emergence of the variants is a good reason for residents to follow safety protocols and get vaccinated when it’s their turn.

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NO MOXIE

Maine’s celebration of a beloved, and sometimes polarizing, soda has been canceled by the pandemic for the second straight year.

The Lisbon Town Council has voted to cancel the town’s Moxie Festival this summer, the Times Record reported. The event last happened in July 2019.

Town officials said they hope to hold smaller events during the summer.