Maine governor proclaims civil emergency due to virus
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s governor declared a state of civil emergency on Sunday in response to the spread of the new coronavirus, and called on residents of the state to avoid large gatherings.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’s proclamation was needed to authorize emergency powers to expand the state’s response to the virus, which has grown to seven confirmed cases in the state after sitting at zero just days ago, state officials said.
Mills also strongly recommended ending all classroom instruction in public schools as soon as possible. Many schools have already taken that step. She also said all events with 50 or more people should be postponed, and any gatherings of more than 10 people that include high risk individuals should not take place at this time.
Mills’s proclamation came on the state’s 200th birthday.
“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,” Mills said.
Mills also said hospital systems and health care providers in the state should postpone nonurgent medical procedures, elective surgeries and appointments until further notice to relieve the strain on the health system.
Maine has five presumptive positive cases of the new coronavirus, and the number of confirmed cases in the state has risen to seven, public health authorities said Sunday.
The increase in cases is an uptick from a Saturday announcement by state authorities that there were three presumptive positive cases of the virus in Maine. Maine was the last state in New England to report a case of the virus.
Confirmed cases are those that tested positive by Maine’s health and environmental lab. Positive results from outside labs are identified as presumptive positive tests as they await confirmation, the state said.
For most people, the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, results in only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.
ASSISTANCE FOR WORKERS, BUSINESSES
Maine’s governor has submitted emergency legislation to temporarily expand eligibility for unemployment insurance and called on the federal Small Business Administration to provide support loans to small businesses to help them deal with losses.
The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development has also been instructed to find more ways the state can help small businesses, Mills said.
“It is my hope that these actions will not only help them weather this difficult time by providing critical capital and financial support, but also provide them an important sense of relief amid the uncertainty,” Mills said.
SCHOOLS, EVENTS SLOW DOWN OR CLOSE
Schools have announced shutdowns varying in length from one day to several weeks. Public and private schools all over Maine are working with parents to facilitate home learning.
Public events that typically herald the spring are also slowing down or getting canceled. Maine Maple Sunday Weekend is a beloved statewide event scheduled for March 21 and 22, but some sugarhouses are shutting down public-facing operations instead.
Augusta Civic Center has also canceled most large events.
SKI RESORT CLOSURES
Ski resorts all over the country announced closures and suspensions of operations over the weekend. The two largest in Maine — Sunday River and Sugarloaf — said they would cease operations at the end of the day Sunday.
Sunday River representatives said in a statement that the closure means all events scheduled for the remainder of the winter season at the resort have been canceled.
The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.