Maine is now the only state in New England without a confirmed case of the new coronavirus.
Tuesday afternoon, the state’s CDC director, Dr. Nirav Shah confirmed the state was still coronavirus-free, after completing tests on 20 people.
While that's good news, Shah emphasized that health care providers and every day Mainers should “start planning and preparing ... to maximize preparedness.”
For health care providers, Shah said that means accessing resources, many of which he says are available online on how to identify, handle and contain a potential coronavirus case.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills says she’s been speaking with Shah and other health leaders in Maine daily and speaking with federal officials on a weekly basis to a level she said is satisfactory.
“We’re cautiously optimistic about the state of Maine’s population,” Mills said Tuesday at a gathering outside her official residence in Augusta. “We have not canceled any events here in Maine, we are cautioning about social distancing in general and about taking common sense precautions.”
Mills and Shah urged handwashing for 20 seconds, getting sleep, exercising and avoiding contact with the elderly either individually or in group living facilities, since data on the coronavirus suggests they are particularly susceptible to the illness.
“It’s definitely a concern of ours,” said Shah, when asked if extra care was being taken because Maine is one of the oldest states in terms of average age in the United States. “One of the reasons my team and I started preparing for the possibility of coronavirus a long time ago is any disease, especially a respiratory disease ... has a disproportionate effect on two groups of people: the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.”
Other precautions being taken outside the immediate state government include the University of Maine system asking students to limit travel and remain on campus during their spring break.
The school has also suspended all non-essential air travel it sponsors.
Elsewhere, the federal Togus VA Hospital in Augusta is not prohibiting anyone from entering unless they undergo a coronavirus screening.
Going forward, Shah says, it’s difficult to comment on hypothetical scenarios in a continuously evolving medical response.
However, he said plans are being made and discussed by states including Maine for situations like a cruise ship docking in the midst of an onboard coronavirus outbreak.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention also says it will provide daily updates on the coronavirus’ impact to Mainers every weekday for the duration of the outbreak.
It also says its capacity to deal with the virus well exceeds demand right now and it has purchased a new machine to make that happen.
Shah advised anyone who thinks they have coronavirus symptoms to call their primary care doctor right away before deciding where to go to seek treatment so they can prevent the virus from spreading further.