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Urges no gatherings over 50 people, postpone elective surgeries and appointments

Governor declares civil state of emergency

By Stephen Betts | Mar 15, 2020
Photo by: Maine CDC

Augusta — Maine Gov. Janet Mills declared a civil state of emergency Sunday evening in the wake of the spread of COVID-19, recommending that all planned gatherings of 50 or more people be canceled.

The governor also recommended that all schools end classroom instruction and that hospitals postpone all elective surgeries and appointments.

"Things are likely to get worse before they get better, but they will get better," the governor said.

The governor said she was not ready to order the closure of restaurants and bars but urged people who go there to practice social distancing.

The declaration of a civil state of emergency allows the governor to assume more power over the outbreak, including suspending the enforcement of certain laws which she did not detail, establishing emergency reserves of certain products and entering into mutual aid agreements with other states or countries. It also allows the state to ask for federal funding.

Thus far locally, Regional School Unit 13 (Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, South Thomaston, and Cushing); Five Town Community School District (Camden, Rockport, Hope, Appleton, and Lincolnville), School Administrative District 28 (Camden and Rockport); RSU 40 (Waldoboro, Warren, Union, Friendship, and Washington); the Mid-Coast School of Technology; and the St. George Municipal School Unit have canceled school.

St. George has closed for at least two weeks. RSU 13 is through the April vacation but Superintendent John McDonald that will reviewed every two weeks to determine if classes can resume. RSU 40 and the Camden area schools will close through April vacation.

In Waldo County, RSUs 3, 20 and 71 have canceled school. RSU 3, closed for two weeks, covers the rural towns of Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity and Waldo. Schools in RSU 20 (Searsport and Stockton Springs) are also closed for two weeks, while in RSU 71 (Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont and Swanville), schools are closed until April 26.

Local Hospitals and nursing homes have imposed restricted visitation policies.

Rockland has canceled City Council meetings for the next two weeks and all other city meetings until May 1.

No criminal or civil jury trials will be heard in the state Courts until after May 1, the Maine Judiciary announced Friday, March 13. Grand jury sessions will also not be held.

And most public events planned by local organizations have been canceled.

The governor's declaration comes as the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Sunday several developments related to the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Maine CDC has received five new presumptive positive tests from a lab affiliated with MaineHealth, which are now under review at the state’s Health and Environmental Testing Lab.

Additionally, samples that test positive at HETL will now be classified as confirmed cases, rather than presumptive positive cases, based on the U.S. CDC’s confidence in the state’s testing protocols.

Maine now has five presumptive positive tests and seven confirmed cases.

The presumptive positive tests are for the following individuals:

  1. Maine CDC has received a presumptive positive test result for a person under the age of 18. The individual is a male who resides in Cumberland County and is isolated at home. This is the state’s first presumptive positive test result for a person under the age of 18.
  2. Maine CDC also received a presumptive positive test for a resident of Oceanview at Falmouth, a senior living community. The individual is a male in his 80s. Maine CDC staff immediately contacted the individual, the person’s medical provider, and the administration of the facility to investigate and mitigate potential exposures. He is hospitalized at Maine Medical Center. Staff, residents of the community, and their families are being notified. Maine CDC instructed the facility to begin symptom checks on all residents immediately as a precautionary measure. Maine CDC is releasing this more detailed identifying information about this presumptive positive test because it could involve potential community spread. Maine CDC will release more detailed identifying information when it can be part of a strategy to help reduce potential community spread.
  3. Maine CDC received presumptive positive test results for a woman in her 30s, a health care worker, who resides in Lincoln County. Her employer has been contacted and steps have been taken to reduce exposure to patients, staff, and other community members. She is isolated at home.
  4. Maine CDC today received a presumptive positive test for a woman in her 70s from Cumberland County. She is isolated at home.
  5. Maine CDC today received a presumptive positive test for a male in his 40s from Cumberland County. He is isolated at home.

Affected individuals have been notified. More information will be released when it becomes available. Samples from these five individuals and other presumptive positive tests continue to be sent to Maine CDC for review.

Additionally, U.S. CDC has updated its classification of test results. As of today, U.S. CDC no longer requires HETL to send samples from presumptive positive tests to the federal lab for confirmation. Moving forward, samples that test positive at HETL will be classified as confirmed cases. Cases previously classified as presumptive positive have now been reclassified as confirmed cases, based on the U.S. CDC’s confidence in Maine CDC’s testing protocols. Tests conducted at outside labs that were previously classified as preliminary presumptive positive will now be identified as presumptive positive tests as they await confirmation.

HETL is receiving samples and conducting testing for COVID-19 seven days a week.

Maine has seven confirmed cases and five presumptive positive tests at this time.

One case identified Friday as a preliminary presumptive positive has been reclassified as negative, based on Maine CDC’s review of a sample submitted by a lab affiliated with MaineHealth. Retesting yielded negative results, and U.S. CDC concurs with Maine CDC’s determination. This test result involved a woman in her 20s from York County, who was being cared for at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

In response to today’s affirmation from the U.S. CDC of HETL’s testing results, Maine CDC now has two categories related to positive test results:

  • Confirmed cases: This now includes cases formerly identified as presumptive positive. This classification applies to samples sent by a health provider directly to HETL that test positive and to samples from non-governmental labs for which HETL validates positive results. Maine has seven confirmed cases.
  • Presumptive positive tests: These are samples that test positive at non-governmental labs and are sent to HETL for validation. Maine has five presumptive positive tests at this time.

The Maine CDC webpage devoted to COVID-19 will be updated to reflect these changes. Numbers for each category will be updated by noon Monday through Friday.

On Thursday, Gov. Janet Mills announced the state’s first presumptive positive test, a woman in her 50s from Androscoggin County. A second presumptive positive test involving a man in his 50s from Cumberland County was reported on Friday. These cases have been reclassified as confirmed. A third confirmed case is a woman in her 40s from Cumberland County who was a close household contact of the other confirmed case in Cumberland County.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, shortness of breath, and lower respiratory distress. Individuals who exhibit those symptoms are advised to contact medical providers before going to a health care facility. Medical providers will make initial determinations about who should be tested.

Maine people can protect their health by taking the same preventive measures that help to avoid catching a cold: Wash your hands often for 20 seconds. Cover coughs and sneezes. Stay home if you are sick.

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