As of 11 a.m. Monday, March 16, eight Maine residents have been confirmed positive and nine others are presumed positive for the coronavirus, according to the state. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.
Bangor schools are not in session for the next two weeks as a precautionary measure against the spread of coronavirus, but they might stay closed longer.
Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin on Sunday recommended that schools close “for an indefinite period of time” after Gov. Janet Mills declared a civil emergency.
But when the Bangor School Department opted to shut down for two weeks just a day before the emergency declaration, the state was leaving the call on whether to close up to local school districts. Since Maine had just two confirmed cases at the time, Bangor schools Superintendent Betsy Webb and other area superintendents decided on two weeks.
“To me it made sense to start with two weeks, which really allows us to monitor and learn more,” Webb said Monday. “As cases increase, I believe we are going to have to revisit and potentially the two-week time period will be extended.”
The extension announcement could be made early next week so that parents have time to prepare, Webb said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that short-term school closures don’t affect the spread of COVID-19 or the number of hospitalizations the virus causes. Longer closures of eight to 20 weeks can have an effect on COVID-19’s spread, according to guidance the CDC has issued, but other measures to mitigate the spread of the disease — such as frequent handwashing and home isolation for those with symptoms — can also achieve that effect.
Due to the impact on families, Webb said, she hopes a longer closure will not be necessary.
“In a perfect world, all the cases would stop and we would bring all the children back,” she said.
“But right now it’s not looking like that.”
Meanwhile, Webb said she will consult with health experts and city leadership to help her decide whether schools need to extend their current two-week closure.
“A school closure of this magnitude is unprecedented,” Webb said.