PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine's Republican senator has joined an effort to expand loan relief for small businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said her proposal would bring expanded relief measures for one year to a federal Small Business Administration loan program that is the primary one for assisting small businesses.

The proposal would make key changes to the program, such as waiving borrower and lender fees. It would also increase the maximum loan value from $5 million to $10 million, and increase the government guarantee to 95%.

Collins introduced the proposal with fellow Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, of Florida, and Jim Risch, of Idaho. Collins said the coronavirus pandemic “is tragically forcing many families to close the doors to their small businesses that they have spent years or even generations to build.”

In other pandemic news in Maine:



The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 2.68%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 4.35% on Jan. 28 to 2.68% on Feb. 11.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 42,000 cases of the virus and 643 deaths since the start of the pandemic.



Vaccines cannot come soon enough for Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works, which has recorded 36 cases since the start of the month. Several hundred Bath residents also have tested positive.

Dr. Christopher Bowe, chief medical officer at Mid Coast Hospital, said he hopes there will be an expansion of who can receive the vaccine in the next month, allowing shipbuilders to be vaccinated.

"Getting vaccinations to people as quickly as possible is the best strategy — along with maintaining use of masks and social distancing — for putting this pandemic behind us,” shipyard spokesperson David Hench told the Times Record.

Until workers can get vaccinated, it’s imperative for workers to remain masked and do their best to keep their distance from other workers, but that can be challenging in the shipyard, Bowe said.

Since March, 279 workers have tested positive across the main shipyard and the company’s Bath and Brunswick facilities.



Maine is one of several states that received potentially counterfeit N95 respirators, state officials said Friday.

The Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services said it has received notification of a national recall on N95 respirators that had lots numbers matching those purchased by the state. The alert states that the respirators carry “a significant risk of being counterfeit and should not be used,” the financial services department said in a statement.

The department said the state has distributed about 161,000 respirators now subject to recall. The respirators went to school nurses, health care facilities and some state workers, the department said.

The department said it has notified recipients of the respirators and is working to replace them.



Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, increased capacity limits for some houses of worship on Friday.

The houses of worship are now able to accommodate five people per 1,000 square feet, or up to 50 people, whichever is greater. The previous standard had been capped at 50 people.

The standard of five people per 1,000 square feet is the same limit applied to retail spaces, Mills said. Other public health measures, such as maintaining 6 feet (2 meters) of distance and wearing face coverings, remain in effect, she said.



Mills also said she received her second and final dose of coronavirus vaccine on Friday. Her office said she received the vaccine at the Blaine House.