BATH — Cases of COVID-19 continues to climb among workers at Bath Iron Works, but a company spokesman said closing any of its facilities due to COVID-19 “is not an option.”

BIW, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, has reported new cases nearly every day for the past seven weeks. As of Wednesday, BIW reported 63 new cases so far this month, according to the company’s website.

The company reported 56 employees tested positive for COVID-19 in December 2020. Since March, 168 employees have tested positive, the company reported.

“Having been designated essential workers by the Department of Homeland Security, closing a facility is not an option,” said BIW Spokesman David Hench.

According to Hench, there are 50 active cases, and those employees are out of work and in quarantine.

Hench said the company “continues to meet or exceed all practices recommended by the CDC for reducing the spread of COVID-19.”

“All of the preventive measures that we have put in place since the onset of the pandemic – including hiring multiple outside vendors to increase the level of cleaning and disinfection taking place each day – have remained in place and are outlined within our online Coronavirus Information Center,” said Hench.

Tim Suitter, spokesman for BIW’s largest union, Local S6, said union leaders continue to encourage workers to do what they can to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within the shipyard, including staying 6 feet away from others and wearing a face mask, as required by the company.

“We’re just trying to get by and practice the right things,” he said. “We’re trying to manage and hopefully people continue to wear their masks and we can put COVID-19 in the rearview mirrors.”

Suitter said remembering and following those precautions, as recommended by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, can be difficult in certain sections of the shipyard.

“A lot of it’s the little things that you don’t think about but happen every day that creates the opportunity for spread,” said Suitter. “Everyone gets together in the morning to meet and get assignments and everyone walks out through the gates at the end of the day. It’s like the running of the bulls.”

Of the 168 workers who have tested positive, 56 of them work within the Land Level Transfer Facility and Piers, where ships are assembled and finished at the main shipyard on Washington Street in Bath. It’s also where the majority of the company’s roughly 6,600 employees work.

BIW’s ongoing tally of COVID-19 cases reflects similar local and statewide trends.

The Maine CDC identified COVID-19 outbreaks within two Bath schools, Morse High School and Fisher Mitchell School on Sunday, forcing them to transition to full online learning until Jan. 19. Both schools are within a mile from the shipyard.

According to a letter Patrick Manuel, Regional School Unit 1 superintendent, sent to families, “an adult associated with” Fisher-Mitchell School tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday. The following day, “an adult associated with” Morse High School received a preliminary positive COVID-19 test result.

Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick was treating five patients for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, according to Judy Kelsh, Mid Coast Hospital spokesperson. Since March, the hospital has treated 80 COVID-19 patients.

Mid Coast Hospital has tested 2,099 people for COVID-19 so far this month, 116 of which were positive. Since March, the hospital has administered 26,491 COVID-19 tests, yielding 502 positive results.

As of Sunday, 152 people in Bath have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, according to the Maine CDC. Since March, Sagadahoc County has seen 568 COVID-19 cases and one death as of Wednesday.

Statewide, 31,150 Mainers have tested positive for COVID-19 since March and 453 have died as of Wednesday.

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