A woman walks past the former Scarborough Downs horse racing track on Wednesday Feb. 3, 2021 where Maine Health set up a 30,000 square-foot makeshift COVID-19 vaccination clinic. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Today is Friday. Temperatures will be in the low to mid 20s from north to south with mostly sunny skies throughout the state. Here’s what we’re talking about in Maine today.

Here’s the latest on the coronavirus and Maine

Another 175 coronavirus cases were reported across the state on Thursday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The death toll statewide is 641. Check out our COVID-19 Tracker for more information.

A coronavirus outbreak that started late last month at Orchard Park Rehabilitation and Living Center in Farmington has infected nearly 30 people.

Maine rescinded COVID-19 vaccine priority for ski patrol as it faces questions about who will get doses next. The state allowed ski patrol members to get vaccines last week, said Dirk Gouwens, the executive director of the Ski Maine Association. However, Gouwens said he received a call on from the state informing him patrol members would no longer get priority. 

Five high school hockey teams in eastern and northern Maine are under quarantine this week because of positive COVID-19 tests.

What to know about the COVID-19 variant newly detected in Maine

A bus driver wearing a mask pulls away from a stop in Portland on Wednesday Feb. 10, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Maine health officials announced Wednesday that a new coronavirus strain that originated in the United Kingdom was detected here. The variant has worried scientists, as early data suggest it is both more contagious and more deadly than the version circulating in the U.S. for a year.

Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, identified the strain as one of the main causes for concern as Maine’s virus trajectory as cases, hospitalizations and virus deaths continue to decline.

Maine paid millions to a controversial firm to help fix unemployment system

A woman wearing a mask walks by an empty storefront in Portland on Wednesday Feb. 10, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

McKinsey & Co. helped the state pay out claims more quickly, combat fraud and improve communication with unemployed workers, the Maine Department of Labor said. But the $6.3 million no-bid contract, which was recently extended through March, highlights the high cost of fixing Maine’s unemployment system, which has faced challenges since a revamp a few years ago.

Legislator says she had tense encounters in 2019 with Mainer charged in DC riot

Michele Meyer Credit: Courtesy of Michele Meyer

Rep. Michele Meyer, an Eliot Democrat, said Kyle Fitzsimons followed her into a Kittery parking lot in the spring of 2019, parked his truck behind her vehicle so she could not exit and asked her how she planned to vote on a gun safety bill.

PLUS: Fitzsimons asked a Maine judge Thursday that his probable cause and bail hearing be held in Washington, D. C.. Fitzsimons, 37, is charged with four federal crimes.

CMP’s solar energy controversy prompts multiple state probes into Maine’s electric grid

Philip Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, speaks with reporters at the University of Southern Maine in Portland in this July 2019 file photo. The commission plans to investigate grid interconnections following complaints that Central Maine Power would raise connection fees for solar projects. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The moves come after Central Maine Power told solar project developers last week that they might need to pay much more to connect to the grid, which could delay projects. 

Millinocket settles with former chief deputy who alleged harassment

Millinocket’s interim town manager, Richard Angotti, is pictured at a town council meeting over Zoom Thursday. Credit: Josh Keefe / BDN

The Millinocket Town Council voted 7-0 to approve a settlement agreement with former Millinocket Police Department Chief Deputy Janet Theriault on Thursday. Terms of the agreement have not yet been made public.

Meet the unarmed, plain-clothed liaison who helps Waldo County respond to certain 911 calls

Rob Porter joined the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office last year as a community liaison to help with calls that are not criminal in nature, such as family disturbances, mental health crises and requests to check on the well-being of family members. Porter said he is a community resource. “I have always had faith in my ability to de-escalate and be able to communicate with someone.” Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Deputies responding to 911 calls in Waldo County sometimes find themselves mediating property line disputes or child custody battles, mental health crises and family fights. There is a wide range of social issues outside the realm of what law enforcement is trained to deal with.

That’s why the department relies on Rob Porter, Waldo County’s first-ever community liaison. Porter, 56, is not a police officer. He doesn’t wear a uniform or carry a gun. But what he brings to the role is important: training in mental health, substance abuse and the willingness to listen.

Natural gas company plans $90M expansion along Maine’s midcoast

In this 2014 file photo, steel pipe slated to become part of a natural gas pipeline in Lincoln is shown. Credit: Nick Sambides Jr. / BDN

Summit Natural Gas of Maine hopes to break ground on the main pipeline system for the project by the fall. When the first phase of the pipeline project is completed, commercial and residential customers in Belfast, Camden, Rockport, Rockland and Thomaston can sign up for service.

The ‘raccoons’ raiding this bird feeder turned out to be a hungry black bear

A homeowner thought he had a problem with feisty raccoons, but when he put up a trail camera, he learned that the culprit that had been raiding his bird feeder was a hungry black bear. Credit: Courtesy of Arthur Ahrens

Arthur Ahrens was a bit surprised to learn exactly who — or what — was causing the problems at his Branchport, New York, home.

Central’s Jamie Russell becomes 27th Maine coach to reach 400 basketball victories

Jamie Russell poses with members of the Central High School girls basketball team after he earned his 400th career coaching victory on Tuesday. Credit: Courtesy of Jared Foster

Central High School girls basketball Jamie Russell took a lighthearted look at his accomplishment of reaching the 400-win plateau after his team’s 48-36 victory over Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft on Tuesday night in Corinth.

In other news:

Androscoggin commissioner now wants to ban county officials from enforcing mask mandate

Justices to decide whether Clinton teen who killed friends in crash should be behind bars until he’s 21

Federal agents say Greenbush man had ammunition he wasn’t allowed to have

Angus King wants to simplify ‘Made in USA’ labeling standards

Maine businesses have received nearly $500M in federal pandemic loans

Angus King: Some Republican senators don’t seem to be paying attention to impeachment trial

Lawmaker asks why trooper accused of profiling got award