- Associated Press - Thursday, April 30, 2020

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - A Maine company that makes specialized swabs for coronavirus testing is teaming up with construction company Cianbro and Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works to double production, officials said Thursday.

The Trump administration is providing $75.5 million to Guilford-based Puritan Medical Products through the Defense Production Act to boost production of the swabs, which are needed to ramp up testing.

Cianbro is providing a building in Pittsfield and help setting up the production line, and Bath Iron Works is making 30 machines Puritan needs to increase production, company officials said Thursday.

Puritan’s production will double to 40 million of the swabs per month through the partnership, said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

“Don’t think of a Q-tip. These are very sophisticated swabs. And they’re absolutely essential as we expand testing. And expanding testing is necessary for us to get back to a fully normal economy in which we can resume our lives,” said Collins, who spoke in Pittsfield after touring Puritan’s existing manufacturing plant in Guilford.



The effort will create as many as 150 jobs in Pittsfield on top of the 300 to 500 workers already employed by Puritan in Guilford, officials said.

The swabs that are produced by Puritan for coronavirus testing are longer than most swabs and have a synthetic material on the end. They’re used for nasal swabs for tests for the coronoavirus.

Puritan is one of two manufacturers in the world that make the specialized swabs in large numbers. The other is in Italy.

Maine Center for Disease Control director Nirav Shah said the state will begin receiving 15,000 swabs every week starting May 4. He said they could be from multiple manufacturers.

RACIAL DATA

Maine CDC released data about the race and ethnicity of people who have been infected with coronavirus.

The data, released Wednesday, pointed to racial disparities that have seen in other states. African-American residents accounted for 3.7% of the cases in Maine despite making up 1.6% of the state population, the paper reported.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

UPDATED NUMBERS

Another person died and 39 more people tested positive for the virus over the past 24 hours, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported.

That brings the total number of deaths to 53 and the total number of confirmed cases to 1,095, officials said.

JOBLESS CLAIMS

Maine labor officials said Thursday that fewer people filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week than in the previous six, but levels remain historically high.

About 7,400 people filed, the Maine Department of Labor said. It was the third consecutive week that claims have declined, though the total number of claims remains the highest on record. Continued claims are close to 73,000, the labor department said.

AMUSEMENT PARK CLOSURE

Funtown Splashtown USA, an amusement park in Saco beloved for water slides and rollercoasters, said it will not open in 2020.

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This story has been corrected to show the total number of deaths in Maine was 53, not 54, as of Thursday.

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