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Gov. Mills convenes Coronavirus Response Team

The response team will meet regularly to 'share information and coordinate coronavirus preparation and response across State government.'

AUGUSTA, Maine — On Monday Gov. Janet Mills convened a Coronavirus Response Team that will coordinate the state government’s response across departments and local agencies to the potential spread of novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maine; one individual in Maine met federal requirements to be tested for the virus but Maine CDC reported the test came back negative.

“While there are no cases of coronavirus in Maine as of today, and the risk to our state remains low, the State must be prepared to respond swiftly and effectively to any potential cases in Maine,” Mills said in a statement. “The Coronavirus Response Team, led by [Maine CDC Director] Dr. [Nirav] Shah, will build on our preparation and response efforts, coordinate across state government and ensure that we are taking every precaution necessary in partnership with local health officials, hospitals, school districts, municipalities and others to make sure Maine is fully prepared and to fully inform and protect all Maine people.”

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The first confirmed report of the coronavirus was reported Monday in New Hampshire. The person had recently traveled to Italy, according to N.H. state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said in a press conference on Monday.

Six people have now died in the U.S. from the virus; the official number of cases in the U.S. is 91 as of Monday morning. There are now more than 89,000 cases worldwide and more than 2,900 deaths.

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According to a press release, the response team will meet regularly to “share information and coordinate coronavirus preparation and response across State government.”

Mills also participated in a briefing Monday with Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and other federal officials for the nation’s governors about the federal government’s response to coronavirus.

In addition to Dr. Shah, the response team consists of commissioners of the Departments of Health and Human Services; Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management; Public Safety; Education; Corrections; Labor; Transportation; and Administrative and Financial Affairs. It also includes the Acting Director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency. Additional department and agency heads will participate as needed, according to the press release.

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Maine CDC has dedicated dozens of staff to working on coronavirus preparedness and response, including:

  • Adjusting emergency response protocols to adapt to COVID-19
  • Reviewing readiness plans to ensure state government maintains continuity of operations and services if COVID-19 impacts agency operations
  • Hosting educational webinars for clinicians, infection control staff, and other health care professionals
  • 24-7 consultations with partners such as schools and public health departments to ensure they have information and resources;
  • Working closely with Maine’s health care systems as they scale up preparedness efforts
  • Communicating closely with school officials including recommending that they convene their school safety teams to review and update their Emergency Operations Plans responsive to pandemic flu and reminding schools that their plans should also include provisions to ensure continuity of education in the unlikely event of a closure
  • Ensuring that potential cases will be rapidly identified and investigated and that isolation procedures are in place, if needed
  • Increasing supplies of personal protective equipment for health care workers and first responders
  • Updating lab equipment to enable testing for the coronavirus and engaging public health nurses as part of our emergency preparedness team, among other measures

Maine CDC continues comprehensive planning to ensure Maine is ready should the virus affect people here and encourages Maine people to protect themselves by taking the same preventive measures that help to avoid catching a cold. These measures include:

  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throwing the tissue in the trash
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water and use an alcohol-based sanitizer in between washings
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Staying home if you are sick
  • Taking care of your health overall by staying current on your vaccinations, including the flu vaccine, eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, and exercising.

More information about COVID-19 can be found can be found on the Maine CDC’s coronavirus website, which will continue to be updated as new information becomes available.

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