An ice hockey referee who tested positive for COVID-19 has potentially exposed some 400 people to the virus after officiating eight recreational games in two days in Maine and New Hampshire.

The games were played on Saturday and Sunday at the Biddeford Ice Arena, North Yarmouth Academy and Merrill Fay Arena in Laconia, N.H., the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

“If you or a family member was on the ice for one of these games, you should consider yourself a close contact of someone with COVID-19. You should quarantine yourself for 14 days since your exposure on the ice,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said at a media briefing. He also urged people exposed to get tested for the virus. Non-family spectators who did not come into close contact with the referee would not be considered close contacts and would not have to quarantine.

Shah said the investigation is in its early stages and there are many unanswered questions, including which of the games were youth and which were adult.

The 400 people exposed is a rough estimate, he said.

“That is a very, very early number. It could change upwards or downwards,” Shah said.

Shah said the Maine CDC is focusing on controlling a potential outbreak first and the health of people exposed, and will later look at whether the games violated the state’s executive orders designed to limit the spread of the virus.

“We’ve just been made aware of this situation,” he said. “We haven’t started that analysis whether it comported with the guidelines and where we may go from there.”

The community sports guidelines on the state’s website say that ice hockey games played indoors can only be played among members of the same team. Games against other teams are not permitted.

High school sports have been severely restricted this fall under an agreement the Maine Principals’ Association developed in concert with the Maine CDC and others. A decision on winter high school sports – which includes ice hockey – has not yet been made, but discussions are expected to get underway soon, state officials have said.

The games in question include:

Biddeford Ice Arena: Saturday at 8:35 a.m. and 10:05 a.m.; Sunday at 7:40 a.m., 9:20 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
North Yarmouth Academy: Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
Laconia, N.H. (Merrill Fay Arena): Saturday at 5:45 p.m.

Statewide, Maine reported 49 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, and no additional deaths.

After subtracting previously reported positive cases that later turned out to be negative, there was a net increase of 35 cases Thursday. This can occur because the overall case count includes “probable” cases of people who are considered likely to have COVID-19 but subsequently test negative.

Thursday’s totals include 13 new cases in Cumberland County, 12 in York County, eight in Kennebec County and seven in Androscoggin County. Since the pandemic began, there have been 5,639 COVID-19 cases, and 142 deaths.

Waynflete School in Portland closed Thursday after one person associated with the school tested positive for COVID-19.

“We are closing the school at noon today out of an abundance of caution while we conduct contact tracing and deep cleaning in areas accessed by this individual,” Geoff Wagg, head of school, said in an email response to questions.

York County has been the hotspot for COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, with 17 outbreaks.

Also on Thursday, the Department of Administrative and Financial Services’ Property Management Division reported an outbreak, with four positive COVID-19 cases, and one probable case.

A pedestrian walks past a construction site on Preble Street in downtown Portland on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“Ultimately, 18 employees quarantined for a 14-day period, three of whom tested positive for COVID-19 during the course of their quarantine, triggering an outbreak investigation by the Maine CDC,” the department said in a news release. The agency said the employees worked in an office that was not public-facing.

Hospitalizations remained low, with seven hospitalized on Thursday, and one in intensive care.

On Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills announced that Maine would be moving into Phase Four of the reopening plan, which allows bars and tasting rooms to reopen on Nov. 2 and provides additional capacity for restaurants and other indoor gatherings starting Tuesday.

The new rules will allow those places to expand to 50 percent of capacity, or 100 people, whichever is lower. The current indoor limit is 50 people.

Bars will be expected to function more like restaurants, with strict new limits, including rules designed to limit interactions between groups and to remain masked except when sitting at tables.

However, public health experts warn that bars are among the riskiest indoor spaces to reopen. Nevertheless, most states have allowed bars to reopen, although many have operating restrictions, such as limiting capacity.

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