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Governor Mills extends 'civil state of emergency' due to coronavirus, COVID-19

Maine's state of civil emergency is now extended through May 15.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Editor's note: You are starting to hear the term 'flattening the curve' as a way to stem the tide of coronavirus cases. The above video explains what that means. 

Update 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14

As the State continues to respond to COVID-19, Governor Janet Mills signed a proclamation extending Maine’s state of civil emergency for another thirty days through May 15, 2020.

A state of civil emergency places Maine on highest alert and allows Mills to deploy all available state resources to protect the health and safety of Maine people and to take every action she reasonably deems necessary to help respond to and protect against the spread of COVID-19 in Maine. It also eases Maine’s access to critical federal aid to boost response efforts.

“I wish this proclamation was not necessary, but the continued spread of the virus demands a sustained response by the State,” Mills said “There will be difficult days and weeks ahead, but I am confident that Maine people will continue to step up to meet this challenge, just as we have in the past, and together we will get through this. For now, I continue to urge Maine people to do their part and stay apart. This is the best way we will defeat this virus and protect the state we all know and love.”

March 15, 2020

Gov. Janet Mills took action Sunday by declaring a 'civil state of emergency' due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the state

Mills said Maine has five new possible cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Mills was especially concerned with two cases: a man in his 80s that resides in the OceanView retirement community and a teenager from Cumberland County. 

NEWS CENTER Maine learned the Cumberland County boy is a current student at Cape Elizabeth Middle School. NEWS CENTER Maine obtained a letter from the Cape Elizabeth School System that detailed what the school has learned from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Cape Superintendent Donna Wolfrom told parents the notice was sent out so everyone involved could be prepared.

"Staff and students may have been exposed to the virus and we are informing you out of an abundance of caution," Wolfrom said. "Please monitor yourself for signs and symptoms. Call a healthcare provider if you develop symptoms. It is important that you call a healthcare facility before you show up in person. Testing is not recommended if you do not have symptoms."

Here is the full release from Cape Elizabeth:

In Maine there are seven confirmed cases, and five presumptive positive cases of COVID-19.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah says, “that presumptive designation means that their initial test was conducted at a non-state of Maine laboratory, not our laboratory here but at an outside laboratory. Per the U.S. CDC guidance right now – requirements – those tests will be sent to the laboratory here in Augusta for confirmation.”

  • Female 50s, Androscoggin county
  • Male 50s, Cumberland
  • Woman 40s, Cumberland
  • Male 60s, Cumberland
  • Woman 20s, Cumberland
  • Male 20s, Cumberland
  • Male 80s, Cumberland
  • Female 70s, Cumberland
  • Male 70s, Cumberland
  • Female 30s, Lincoln
  • Male 40s, Cumberland
  • Teen boy, Cumberland

Dr. Shah says out of those cases, two of the individuals have been hospitalized and three were in close contact with individuals of three other cases.

“We also now have evidence of community transmission occurring in Cumberland County," Dr. Shah said. "That means at least one of these cases resulted from an infection that cannot be linked to travel or importation from another affected part of the country. That is to say, the individual most likely acquired his or her infection within the state of Maine.”

Dr. Shah also said, “Based on the experience we have seen across the globe, across the country, across the Northeast and New England, community transmission will continue to spread across the state of Maine.”

Additionally, Mills asked for other measures to create more "social distancing to avoid person-to-person spread." Dr. Shah said that one of the new presumptive positive tests resulted in non-close company contact of another person who is positive with COVID-19. That is the first person in Maine to contract the disease without close contact. 

GOVERNOR MILLS FULL STATEMENT

In the wake of several new presumptive positive cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Governor Janet Mills announced several new significant recommendations to respond to COVID-19 and signed a proclamation of civil emergency to further protect public health. Governor Mills is recommending:

  • Ending classroom instruction in all public schools as soon as reasonably practical.
  • Postponing all non-urgent medical procedures, elective surgeries, and appointments at hospitals and health care providers across the state until further notice.
  • Restricting visitors and all non-essential health care personnel to long-term care facilities except for certain compassionate care situations such as end of life until further notice.
  • Postponing all events with 50 or more people all gatherings of more than 10 that include individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness, such as seniors, until further notice.

Governor Mills issued the following statement:

“With several new presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in Maine, it is important that we prepare and respond – but not panic. The Maine CDC has prepared for this eventuality since last year and we are coordinating across government and with communities statewide to respond to this threat. Proclaiming a state of civil emergency unleashes critical state authorities and allows access to federal funds that will support our response efforts to delay and mitigate the outbreak in Maine. These new recommendations will also further protect Maine people.

Perhaps it is some odd fate that today we also celebrate Maine’s 200th year as a state. Two hundred years ago, we separated ourselves from Massachusetts and embarked on creating our own destiny as a state. We then, as Maine people, learned to be self-reliant and, at the same time, to rely on each other. Today, we are self-reliant and, at the same time, we rely on each other

Time and again, Maine people have risen to the challenges put in front of us. We have conquered them because we are a strong, resilient people – borne of the western foothills; the northern potato fields; the bold, rocky coasts; and the tall, pine forests. We have been lifted up by the courage, conviction and resilience that comes from loving a place and its people. Together, we will get through this.”

The Proclamation to Further Protect Public Health signed by Mills today brings Maine to highest alert and allows the governor to deploy all available state resources to protect the health and safety of Maine people and to take every action she reasonably deems necessary to help respond to and protect against the spread of COVID-19 in Maine. It also eases Maine’s access to critical federal aid to boost response efforts. 

Mills also strongly recommended "ending classroom instruction in all public schools as soon as reasonably practical."

"Maine Department of Education has been working closely with school systems in preparation for this step and has secured a waiver from the USDA to allow schools to provide meals offsite to students," Mills said. 

Mills has also directed the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to pursue federal waivers that will help ensure additional child care capacity. 

Additionally, she has directed Maine DHHS to work with health care organizations on standing up child care centers for their workers along, along with other options to keep front-line workers protecting the public’s health and safety.

  • All hospital systems and health care providers across Maine postpone non-urgent medical procedures, elective surgeries, and appointments until further notice.
  • will relieve the strain on the health care system as Maine prioritizes COVID-19-related cases.
  • All long-term care providers prohibit all visitors and non-essential health care personnel; except for certain compassionate care situations such as an end of life situation, until further notice.
  • the difficulty of this situation, Governor Mills urges Maine people to find other ways to show older people or those with chronic conditions their love such as by calling them on the phone; writing them, emailing them, using Skype or FaceTime.

"All events with 50 or more people be postponed and that all gatherings of more than 10 that include individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness, such as seniors, be postponed until further notice," Mills said.

  • recommendations significantly enhance the previous social distancing recommendations offered by Governor Mills. Social distancing is one of the most effective methods to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

Governor Janet Mills has also taken strong steps to protect Maine workers and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. She has requested that the Small Business Administration (SBA) provide economic support loans to Maine small businesses in order to help them overcome any temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19. She has also submitted emergency legislation, sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Sara Gideon, that temporarily expands eligibility for unemployment insurance to individuals whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19.

Mills has also directed the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to examine additional ways that the State can support Maine’s small businesses, including working with the Finance Authority of Maine and other potential lending partners. Her administration is also working around the clock to prepare emergency legislation and enact a budget that helps respond to the issues presented by COVID-19 with the goal of minimizing its impact on Maine people and reducing its spread.

These new steps from the Governor build on the work done by the Mills Administration to prepare for and respond to COVID-19, including:

  • Convening a Coronavirus Response Team, led by Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah and comprised of key individuals in the Mills Administration, to coordinate State government’s response across departments and local agencies and health authorities.
  • Declaring a health insurance emergency to require health insurance carriers providing health care coverage in Maine’s commercial market to cover costs related to coronavirus testing and increases access to care.
  • Directing the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to issue emergency rules to ensure MaineCare does not charge copays for office visits and prescription drugs that may be needed for COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment, and to allow for a prescription refill of up to 90 days so people have to make fewer visits to pharmacies.
  • Distributing personal protective equipment to first responders and health care professionals across Maine as it becomes available.
  • Temporarily suspending non-essential, out-of-state travel for all State employees and reviewing leave policies and telecommuting options.
  • Applying for and receiving a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools the ability to provide meals offsite to students, if the school or community currently has, or qualifies for, a USDA Summer Food Service Program.
  • Requesting that the Small Business Administration (SBA) provide economic support loans to Maine small businesses in order to help them overcome any temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19.
  • Submitting emergency legislation, sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Sara Gideon, that temporarily expands eligibility for unemployment insurance to individuals whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19.
  • Launching a 211 option for Mainers to get answers to questions about COVID-19 at any time. This service is available by dialing 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211, or emailing info@211maine.org.

For more information on Maine’s response to COVID-19 and updated testing results, visit the Maine CDC website. Additionally, Maine CDC and 211 Maine have launched a new option for Mainers to get answers to questions about COVID-19 at any time. This service is available by dialing 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211, or emailing info@211maine.org.

The best thing that Maine people can do to protect their health is to take the same preventive measures that avoid catching a cold: Wash your hands often for 20 seconds. Cover coughs and sneezes. Stay home if you are sick. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, shortness of breath, and lower respiratory distress. Call ahead to a health care professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness. Health care providers will make the initial determination on whether COVID-19 testing is advisable. As appropriate, health providers will take samples and submit them to Maine CDC.

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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