Facing COVID-19 as a community

By The Editorial Board | Mar 19, 2020

A lot has changed in about a week.

We have been hearing for some time now about the outbreak around the world of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), but it really did not hit home for many of us until we were confronted by empty shelves at local stores and news that institutions as important as the University of Maine are closing down for the semester.

Even now, we are hearing from some in the community that this is all hype and that the media is fanning the flames of panic.

The reality is that almost every major event and gathering in the state either has been canceled or soon will be. Most of the major colleges and universities have announced they are sending students home after spring break next week and, for the rest of the semester, classes will have to be taken online. Some of the institutions that have announced this do not even normally offer online programs. The massive celebration of Maine’s bicentennial in Augusta was canceled.

Meanwhile, local stores have seen runs on hand sanitizer, soap, toilet paper and other products people fear they might run out of during a quarantine.

World, federal and state public health officials are urging precautions to avoid the spread of the illness, which they have now categorized as a pandemic.

This is happening. It is a challenge this community will have to face and we will get through it as we have other challenges in the past because we are a community of hard-working, strong, independent people and we have shown many times our ability to pull together to help our friends and neighbors.

We are committed to providing the best, most current information to the public and our articles on this topic are free.

We have created a section devoted to free news on the coronavirus at https://waldo.villagesoup.com/center/health.

These stories are also going to show up in our regular news feed and are linked to each other so you can easily find them all.

You will find there the complete recommendations from the CDC for avoiding the spread of this illness. Those recommendations include:

- Stay home when you are sick.

- Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.

- Cover your mouth with tissues whenever you sneeze or cough and discard used tissues in the trash. Wash your hands immediately afterward.

- Avoid people who are sick with respiratory symptoms.

- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Gov. Janet Mills has announced steps the state is taking, including proclaiming an insurance emergency to improve access to care and require private health insurance plans to cover costs related to coronavirus testing, as well as discouraging gatherings of 50 attendees or more. We appreciate the work she has been doing and the clear message she has been sending.

This emergency is an opportunity for us to come together (while staying at least three feet apart). We have been a divided country recently on political grounds, but outbreaks of illness know no politics. Let’s not waste time laying blame, scapegoating groups or arguing about whether this is real.

We urge businesses to be flexible about sick leave policies and to offer paid sick leave. Those who can do work from home via computer should be allowed to do so.

As more people stay home, remember to reach out to your friends, relatives and neighbors via phone, text, social media to keep each other’s spirits up and make sure no one feels alone.

Stay tuned. We will continue to post information as it becomes available.

The state has also provided resources for information.

Contact 211 Maine for answers to frequently asked questions on COVID-19:

· Dial 211(or 1-866-811-5695)

· Text your ZIP code to 898-211

· Email info@211maine.org

· 211 is TTY and Video Relay accessible if calling from Maine

· Visit maine.gov/dhhs/coronavirus.

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