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Maine reports 3 deaths and 50 new coronavirus cases, loosens statewide lodging requirements

Maine Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a news conference where she announced new plans for the stay-at-home order and other measures to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Three deaths and 50 new coronavirus cases were reported in Maine Thursday afternoon, bringing the state’s death toll to 69 and case count to 1,565, as state lodging restrictions were loosened to allow earlier reservations for vacations this summer, officials said.

One of the victims, a man in his 60s, was the first coronavirus-related death reported in Penobscot County, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control. The other two victims, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 90s, were reported in Cumberland County.

Half of the state’s 16 counties have now reported at least one death related to the virus, officials said.

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Cumberland has reported the most deaths of the state’s counties, with 34 in total, officials said. Waldo County has reported the second most with 14, followed by York and Kennebec with eight deaths each, and Androscoggin with two Franklin, Hancock, and Penobscot have each reported one death.

State officials announced loosened restrictions on the state’s current lodging policy, allowing lodge operators and innkeepers to accept reservations starting June 1 for both residents and out-of-state visitors who have completed a 14-day quarantine.

Originally, the plan didn’t permit out-of-state residents to reserve a room for an arrival date before July 1. The move comes as Governor Janet Mills’ four-stage plan to reopen the economy enters its second week.

“We will continue to work closely with the tourism industry to make progress as we head into the summer,” said Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

State officials are reexamining the plan’s 14-day quarantine requirement, which has been contested by the lodging industry as potentially preventing tourists from visiting the state in summer. Officials are looking for an alternative plan that still protects the health of Maine residents.

“We are acting in partnership with the industry to resume reservations while we also work together to evaluate alternatives to the 14-day quarantine, including testing and other protocols, that will allow us to protect Maine residents and tourists during the summer months," Mills said.

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“For communities like Old Orchard Beach, the mandate is not just a strain on our economy, it is a devastating blow,” said Representative Lori Gramlich, a Democrat from Old Orchard Beach, a busy tourist destination.

Lodging establishments should be ready to cancel and fully refund reservations if they are not able to reopen under Stage 2, which is set to begin June 1, state officials said.

As of Wednesday, 33,035 residents have tested negative for the virus, officials said. The number represents an uptick of 10,943 negative tests since the week prior.

Cumberland County has reported the highest number of coronavirus cases throughout the state at 778, officials said. York and Kennebec trail with 277 cases and 113 cases, respectively. Androscoggin County has also reported 109 cases, seeing a steady increase in recent days.

An additional 15 people have recovered since contracting the virus, with the total number of recoveries rising to 958 people, officials said.

Three more people were hospitalized since Wednesday afternoon, officials said. A total of 207 people have been hospitalized at some point during their illness. Of those patients, 37 are currently hospitalized, with 18 in critical care and seven on ventilators.

There are 163 ICU beds and 230 ventilators available for use across the state, officials said.

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Material from AP wire services was used in this report. Matt Berg can be reached at matthew.berg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattberg33.