Maine could be headed for tough flu season in ’19-’20 

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention says early indicators show it could be a tough flu season in the state and beyond. 

The flu season lasts from October to May, and typically peaks in the winter months. Maine CDC director Nirav Shah says the severity of flu season in Australia could indicate the U.S. is headed for a high number of cases this year. 

The Portland Press Herald reports Maine had more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the flu and 48 flu-related deaths in the 2018-19 season. That was more than 1,000 more illnesses than the previous year, but 34 fewer deaths. 

The first few cases of flu have been reported in Maine this season. Symptoms typically include fever, muscle aches and a cough. 

ICE office opening in Maine draws protests from activists 

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The opening of a new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Maine has prompted demonstrations in protest. 

The Portland Press Herald reports the news of the agency opening an office in downtown Portland led some activists to protest over the weekend and into Monday. 

The new building will have one holding cell. The federal agency says the office specializes in transnational criminal investigations and will not be focusing on detaining people facing deportation. 

The federal agency has become the target of a flurry of nationwide protests in response to the Trump administration’s strict immigration policies over the past three years. 

The permit for the building was approved in March, and the office will open soon. 

Final hurt firefighter out of hospital after Maine explosion 

FARMINGTON, Maine (AP) — The last of the firefighters injured in a deadly building explosion in Maine has been released from the hospital. 

Maine Medical Center said Sunday that Capt. Scott Baxter has been discharged to a rehabilitation facility. The explosion destroyed the LEAP Inc. building in Farmington and hospitalized six firefighters. 

Another firefighter, 68-year-old Capt. Michael Bell, was killed in the blast. The Portland Press Herald reports that LEAP maintenance manager Larry Lord was also injured and is being treated at a hospital in Boston. 

The State Fire Marshal’s Office found that propane leaking from a line under a parking lot caused the explosion. It’s still undetermined what caused the leak itself or the spark that led to the blast. 

Maine group gets funding for refugee farmer project 

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The federal government’s investing more than $600,000 in a Portland group that works with immigrants and refugees to teach sustainable farming practices. 

Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree says the awards will go to Cultivating Community, which manages and supports urban food growing. One of the grants is a $100,000 award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a project to build refugee agriculture in Maine. 

The other award’s for more than $500,000 and it’s from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program. Pingree says it’s for Maine’s socially disadvantaged farmers. 

Cultivating Community farmer training program director Alex Redfield says the grants will help the group partner with others to improve food access for new Mainers. 

Colby College president to tout economic impact on Maine 

WATERVILLE, Maine (AP) — Colby College’s president is planning to present findings of an independent study about the economic impact of the college on the community and the state. 

President David Greene is scheduled to unveil the report on Tuesday in Waterville, where Colby is located. The college says the study “highlights significant progress in supporting the success and growth of Waterville and Maine.” 

Greene is expected to focus on how Colby has helped the area grow jobs and avoid decreasing population trends. Colby is a liberal arts college of about 2,000 students that was founded in 1813. 

Other people expected to speak at the event include Charlotte Mace, the director of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development’s Office of Business Development. 

Portland housing report indicates gap in affordability 

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Policy changes and public financing have produced more housing in Portland, Maine, however prices remain unaffordable to some city residents. 

A report from the city indicates that most construction approved in the last five years is reserved for low-income residents or is a high-end rental property. 

The Portland Press Herald reports that housing isn’t being built for young families or low-wage workers. 

At-large Councilor Jill Duson says housing is an asset becoming more unachievable for most who live in Portland. 

According to a biennial report on Portland’s housing situation, the average median household income is $51,800 and the median home price is $316,000. MaineHousing reports that in order to afford the median home price residents would need a household income of $102,173. 

Fish farmer, gov, tribe partner on salmon stocking program 

CUTLER, Maine (AP) — A fish farming company says it’s working with government agencies and a tribal group to raise salmon to be released into a Maine river. 

Cooke Aquaculture says it’s working on the project with the Maine Department of Marine Resources, the federal government and the Penobscot Indian Nation. The company says the project involves growing juvenile Atlantic salmon to adult size in aquaculture pens near Cutler and releasing them into the Penobscot River’s East Branch. 

Salmon were once plentiful in Maine’s rivers, but the fish are now listed under the U.S.’s Endangered Species Act. Cooke says about 5,000 adult salmon will be taken to the East Branch and tributaries in fall 2021 or 2022. It says that will result in the most spawning adults in the Penobscot River in decades.