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Maine advises quarantine for 100 people as virus cases grow

March 16, 2020 GMT
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference Monday, March 16, 2020, in Augusta, Maine. Shah announced that there are five new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in Maine to 17. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference Monday, March 16, 2020, in Augusta, Maine. Shah announced that there are five new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in Maine to 17. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has advised quarantine for about 100 people because of exposure to the coronavirus, the agency’s head said Monday.

The number is fluctuating, and other people have been advised by employers to quarantine themselves, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said. Cases of the virus are growing in different parts of the state, with evidence of community transmission, and two people have been hospitalized, he said.

The state’s first case of a child testing positive for the virus involved a student from Cape Elizabeth Middle School. The student is doing well and recovering at home, school district officials said.

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Shah reiterated a statement from Gov. Janet Mills for Mainers to avoid large gatherings and take precautions, but also remember to help their neighbors.

“While many aspects of our lives here in Maine will be postponed or suspended, we must not suspend our caring of one another,” Shah 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.

Shah said there were 17 confirmed or presumptive cases of the virus in the state Monday. That as an increase of five from the previous day.

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MIDDLE SCHOOL EXPOSED

Everyone in the Cape Elizabeth Middle School community was potentially exposed to the virus, said Donna Wolfrom, the district’s superintendent, on Monday. She and other schools officials said public health authorities have made contact with people who might have had close contact with the infect student.

The school district, like dozens in the state, was working to facilitate at-home learning for students.

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HEALTH CARE WORKERS

In Kennebunk, a cancer center closed its doors Monday for at least two weeks. Patients were urged to take extra precautions after someone connected to the center tested positive, a statement said.

“Working directly with the Maine Centers for Disease Control, we have informed all patients who were in our Kennebunk office last week to stay home and monitor for any symptoms,” New England Cancer Specialists said in a statement.

Treatment was still available for cancer patients at a different location in Scarborough, the statement said.

A city-operated clinic in Portland closed last week because a worker tested positive for coronavirus.

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ST. PATRICK’S DAY CURFEW

Maine’s largest city, Portland, declared an emergency and adopted a curfew to prevent the spread of the virus on St. Patrick’s Day.

The curfew applies to establishments where groups gather all day Tuesday and from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. from Wednesday to Saturday. City Manager Jon Jennings said the city “simple cannot have large gatherings, such as in the Old Port,” a popular part of the city for nightlife.

The city also recommended that restaurants close to in-store customers and instead offer takeout meals.

Bishop Robert Deeley also announced that Saint Patrick’s Day Mass is canceled this year.

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L.L. BEAN STORE CLOSINGS

L.L. Bean is closing all of its retail stores across the country, including its flagship store in Freeport, Maine, to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, CEO Steve Smith announced Monday.

It’ll be the first time the 24-hour flagship store in Freeport has closed for more than 24 hours, and only the fifth time the store has closed, Smith said. All store employees will receive pay and benefits during the closure, he said.

“By making this decision now, we can better ensure the safety of our employees and customers, as we all continue to navigate a rapidly evolving situation and follow the CDC’s guidelines around the importance of social distancing,” he wrote.

The closings will begin at midnight and continue through March 29. The company’s warehouse and shipping operations remain open, so customers can place orders online or call a toll-free number, he said.

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UTILITIES PUT OFF DISCONNECTIONS

Central Maine Power and Summit Natural Gas of Maine have both announced plans to postpone disconnections of heating services due to nonpayment.

David Flanagan, executive board chairman of CMP, said in a statement that the utility wanted to reassure customers “that we would like to work with them if they are challenged to pay their bills, and would like to extend the period in which disconnections are prohibited until Maine has a better understanding of how people are dealing with the consequences of the pandemic.”

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Associated Press writer David Sharp contributed to this report. 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.