BATH — COVID-19 cases at Bath Iron Works, one of the state’s largest employers, have jumped this month as the shipyard works to recover from crippling delays worsened by a strike and the pandemic.

According to the company’s website, 84 workers have tested positive for COVID-19 since March. Of those, 59 cases have come from the main shipyard in Bath.

BIW, a subsidiary of aerospace and defense company General Dynamics, reported 38 employees have tested positive so far this month and 29 have tested positive in the past week. Those workers were last at work between Nov. 18 and Dec. 9.

The company has reported new COVID-19 cases nearly every day since Nov. 16, prompting the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to open an outbreak investigation. Since then, 66 workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

“We’ve seen cases shoot up over the last couple days … but people have been expecting this,” said Tim Suitter, spokesman for BIW’s largest union, Local S6. “Once it becomes active in the shipyard, it can easily be spread. BIW seems to be doing all the right things, but things happen.”

Maine CDC spokesman Robert Long said the outbreak investigation at BIW continues. He maintains that shipyard employees should “wear masks in public, stay at least 6 feet apart, avoid nonessential gatherings, and limit interaction with anyone who is not a member of their household,” to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.

While employees aren’t being tested at the shipyard, BIW spokesman David Hench said the company arranges for “testing for all close contacts and presumed positives, typically at one of the several community resources that are available.”

Suitter said he doesn’t know how many workers have been put out of work to quarantine after testing positive or being exposed to a sick coworker, but said he suspects it’s going to have an impact on the company’s production. He said he fears it will hinder the progress the company and union have made in trying to recover from hefty production delays.

“We have upcoming sea trials and hopefully we’ll be able to have it,” he said, referencing the sea trials for the USS Daniel Inouye scheduled for Tuesday. “They may end up pushing it back.”

Hench said the rise in cases at the shipyard and across the state “has led to a new layer of safety precautions” but assured “these precautions should not affect the schedule for sea trials.”

Hench declined to comment on how many BIW are out of work because “that number is constantly changing, both because of people being newly identified as having had close contact and because every day, there are people returning to work once their quarantine period is up.”

Mid Coast Hospital sent a letter to BIW workers on Thursday asking them to wear face masks, wash their hands frequently and maintain physical distance from others whenever possible.

“Your local health system has been preparing and responding to the ever-growing complexities of the COVID-19 pandemic for 10 months,” Mid Coast Hospital wrote. “At this point, we have experienced every emotion possible, from fear and exhaustion to sadness and hope. Our current concern is with the dramatic increase in COVID-19 locally, that our hospital system could become overwhelmed.”

BIW has avoided widespread COVID-19 outbreaks after the first case within the shipyard was announced back in March. That first case caused over half of the shipyard to say home and sparked calls from the shipyard’s unions and Maine lawmakers alike for the shipyard to close.

The company made masks mandatory for all workers and increased daily sanitization efforts, but it has held firm that it will not close, as ordered by the Navy.

Bath, where the main shipyard is located, has had just 41 COVID-19 cases so far, mirroring Sagadahoc County’s low numbers. Sagadahoc County has seen just 196 cases and no deaths, making it the third-lowest county in the state for COVID-19 cases, just above Lincoln and Piscataquis.

Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick is treating six patients for COVID-19, according to spokeswoman Judith Kelsh. The hospital has treated 43 patients for COVID-19 since March. This month, Mid Coast Hospital has tested 1,649 individuals for COVID-19, 66 of which yielded positive results as of Friday. Since March, 271 people have tested positive at Mid Coast Hospital.

Although local numbers remain low, BIW employs about 6,500 people from every corner of the state, which has seen a surge in cases in recent weeks.

State health officials reported 417 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday as well as seven additional deaths among infected people, the Portland Press Herald Reported.

Maine’s cumulative cases rose to 15,620 on Saturday, of which 13,687 have been confirmed by testing and 1,933 are considered probable cases of COVID-19.

Two hundred fifty-seven people have died with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in Maine, and 10,477 have recovered from the disease.

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