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Maine CDC Investigating Possible COVID-19 Outbreak At Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Maine is investigating a possible COVID-19 outbreak at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Dan Tuohy / NHPR

A commuter van that transported workers in Maine to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery may be the source of a new COVID-19 outbreak, the Maine Centers for Disease Control announced Thursday.

Officials say they’re investigating 18 cases total at the facility, with 13 among Maine residents and the rest from New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

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Maine's top epidemiologist, Dr. Nirav Shah, says seven of the infected people carpooled in the van from the town of Sanford, where the state is also investigating an outbreak at a manufacturing facility.

“As we conduct more testing in partnership with the Naval Shipyard, we’ll have a better epidemiological picture of what’s going on and what the patterns of transmission that may have existed that generated and led to this outbreak actually are,” Shah said at a press conference Thursday.

The shipyard saw one death from COVID-19 in April. It has continued operating during the pandemic with health precautions in place.

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The facility is a major employer on the Seacoast and is currently hosting a nuclear submarine, the USS Texas, which arrived for routine maintenance this week with 130 crewmembers aboard.

Maine overall has now seen more than 5,000 cases of coronavirus and 138 deaths, including seven indirectly linked to an August wedding in the town of Millinocket. 

This story is a production of New England News Collaborative, with original reporting by Maine Public on Sept. 17, 2020.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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