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COVID Team hits streets to help educate and keep people safe

South Portland is using state grant money to fund a COVID-19 Team that goes into the community to help educate people and businesses

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — To help reduce the spread of the coronavirus the City of South of Portland has created a COVID-19 Team. 

A group of four people who have made it their mission to get out into the community and help protect the people who live and work there.

Funded by a state grant these workers are all about educating people about the coronavirus and preventing its spread.

The team visits city motels to help the homeless, immigrant, and refugee populations who are staying there.

"We know they are predisposed to higher rates of infection for COVID," said Josh Pobrislo, a Firefighter/Paramedic and the city's Local Health Officer. He also heads South Portland's COVID Team. 

"I think we've made a significant impact on a lot of folks in the community to give them the things they needed and a lot of folks just needed somebody to listen," said Pobrislo.

The team hands out clothes, warm weather gear, masks, hand sanitizer,s and educational materials printed in many different languages.

Clovis Lemba speaks seven of those languages.

"It is a new life for them and facing COVID-19 is a major struggle."

Lemba is another member of the team. Originally from the Congo, he's been in Maine since 2013. He understands how vulnerable immigrants often feel, especially during the pandemic.

"It's like a life support. I think it's priceless because I am in touch with them speaking all of those languages, French, Angola, Portuguese and Spanish sometimes" said Lemba.

Credit: NCM

The city's COVID Team also conducts business walk-throughs and handles any COVID non-compliance complaints.  

"We talk to them about social distancing, wearing masks, keeping hands clean," said COVID team member Shaun St. Germain.

He says many businesses have been compliant and cooperative and if there's an issue their focus is on education.

"We're not really into enforcing compliance. We just want to make sure they have the information," said St. Germain.

South Portland's COVID Team, which is only temporary, is being funded by the state's 'Keep Maine Healthy' grant, aimed at supporting local public health, education, and prevention efforts.