RUMFORD — Twelve more employees at the ND paper mill in Rumford have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases at the mill to 16, officials said Thursday.

On Tuesday, the number of positive tests was four. According to the union representing the employees, the number of confirmed cases could grow because many workers are still awaiting their test results.

Paperworkers union Local 900 President Gary Hemingway said around 75 to 80 people at the mill were out of work with health conditions or because of the need to quarantine.

Hemingway said if cases continue to grow and there are not enough people to run the equipment, the mill may have to shut down for about a month.

“It affects contractors, chemical suppliers, wood chip suppliers, tire suppliers,” Hemingway said. “It can affect everyone. It’s bad for the River Valley area.”

The mill currently employs about 650 people. ND paper has been working with Rumford Hospital to test more than 600 employees, and more tests will be done next week.

At the start of the outbreak on Tuesday, Janet Koski, director of human resources and communications, said, “We’re doing everything that we can to protect our folks. We’re working with the hospital, as well as the Maine CDC. We’re a subset of the community. I know there are cases in the community as well as here.”

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