BATH — A Bath Iron Works spokesman declined to say whether the shipyard would close or halt production to prevent workers from potentially spreading the novel coronavirus.

David Hench, BIW’s communications representative, said a working group meets daily to monitor the latest developments of the disease and determine how to respond.

“We have been closely monitoring the global spread of COVID-19 and the potential risk it poses for our employees and the people of Maine,” said Hench. “We will continue to communicate information to our employees that will help them avoid infection or transmission of the illness should it become an issue in the state.”

BIW operates several facilities across the southern Midcoast, including the Bath shipyard and the training academy at Brunswick Landing. Employees are a mix of laborers, engineers and office workers.

The shipyard announced it sent two vendor employees, who came from impacted countries, home, but declined to say where they were from. The employees, who were not symptomatic, were assigned to assist the structural fabrication facility in Brunswick.

BIW also brought an undisclosed number of employees in Yokosuka, Japan, home who were assigned to help repair and update destroyers at the naval base. Yokosuka is 43 miles south of Tokyo on the east coast of Japan. The employees will spend two weeks in quarantine before returning to work. None have shown symptoms so far, according to BIW officials.

As of Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a Level 2 travel advisory for Japan, which encourages older adults or those who have chronic medical conditions to consider postponing travel. The country also issued a nationwide school closure, keeping over 14 million children at home, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Union officials representing shipyard workers could not be reached for comment.

While the shipyard is comprised of large indoor and outdoor spaces, employees can still find themselves in tight spaces. Each day during shift changes employees flood from the shipyard’s two gates and rush onto buses that take them to satellite parking lots, which are necessary due to a lack of parking near the Bath shipyard.

Hench said the shipyard has made internal changes to protect workers, such as increasing the availability of personal hygiene and cleaning supplies for employees and restricting non-essential business travel. A hotline was also set up for employees with call with questions or concerns regarding coronavirus.

BIW officials have urged its employees to follow tips provided by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent the spread of illness, such as washing your hands for 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face, avoiding close contact with others who are sick and staying home when you’re sick.

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after being exposed to the disease. The CDC believes the illness is spread through person-to-person contact when respiratory droplets, produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, land in a person’s eyes, mouth or are inhaled.

Gov. Janet Mills announced an Androscoggin County woman tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, the state’s first presumptive case. The Portland Press Herald reported the woman was described only as being in her 50s and is self-isolating while doctors and state medical officials try to learn more about how she was exposed to the coronavirus. The test is a presumptive positive, and the result has yet to be confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The Maine CDC is speaking with her and her medical provider to assess her travel history, and they’ve already begun investigating possible community exposure,” Mills said during a State House news conference. “That woman is quarantined in her home. I know I join the people of Maine in wishing her a speedy recovery.”

Earlier this week the Maine CDC began testing people for coronavirus. In addition to the one presumed positive test, the Maine CDC reported 65 people have tested negative and 20 test results are pending as of Thursday.

Worldwide, as of Thursday, 125,288 people have tested positive and 4,614 people have died, according to the World Health Organization.


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