March 16, 2020
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Mass cancellations signal different times ahead for Mainers

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Three Bates College freshmen (from left) Miles Anderson, Will Symmans and Charlie Rubin, spend one last day together in Portland on Sunday before they scatter and go their separate ways after the college canceled in-person classes due to coronavirus fears.

As of 4:30 p.m. Sunday, March 15, seven Maine residents have been confirmed positive and five 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.

Mainers will wake up to more big changes Monday that include major disruptions to their daily lives.

Thousands of students normally in class will be at home as schools throughout the state — including in Bangor, Portland and Lewiston — postpone classes, many for at least two weeks. At least two dozen school districts or private schools have announced closures.

And those numbers will grow. Gov. Janet Mills on Sunday proclaimed a civil state of emergency in Maine, and asked public schools to end classroom instruction as soon as possible for the time being.

She also asked that all events with 50 people or more be postponed until further notice. Gatherings of more than 10 people, especially seniors, are also postponed.

“Many of the steps I’ve recommended today will disrupt people’s lives,” she said. “Things are likely to get worse before they get better. But they will get better.”

[What has been canceled or postponed in Maine due to coronavirus]

The closures hearken back to the 1998 ice storm, when the state was declared a disaster area, schools were shuttered for two weeks and hospitals were overcrowded with people seeking treatment for hypothermia, falls and carbon monoxide poisoning.

The announcements of school postponements escalated over the weekend as schools came to terms with COVID-19’s presence and decided to help limit its spread. Government and health officials have encouraged limited contact between people.

By Sunday evening, state health officials confirmed that seven Mainers had the coronavirus and another five were likely to have it.

[Here are answers to questions from BDN readers about the new coronavirus]

“The decision to close Katahdin Schools is based on being proactive and learning from what has happened in other areas of the country and the world,” said Marie Robinson, the superintendent for RSU 89, where Katahdin Schools are based.

Businesses from Sawmill Bar and Grill in Millinocket to the Apple Store in the Maine Mall in South Portland are closing temporarily. Even the Legislature said it would adjourn early because of the coronavirus.

Colby, Bates, Bowdoin and the University of Maine system are among the Maine colleges telling students to stay home and moving to online courses.

“It sucks,” said Bates College freshman Charlie Rubin, who spent one last day together with his friends Will Symmans and Miles Anderson, also Bates freshmen.

“I guess we’re sophomores now.” Symmans said.

[What you should know about social distancing, self-quarantine and self-isolation]

Dozens of concerts, sporting and other entertainment events around the state have been canceled or postponed. Many churches also have moved to online services, forgoing in-person handshakes and shared communion wine.

Some hospitals have canceled elective surgeries and are limiting and checking visitors before they enter buildings. The governor called on all hospital systems and health care providers to postpone elective surgeries.

Even the state’s bicentennial celebration scheduled for Sunday was postponed.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Signs of coronavirus-induced closures and changes in service sprouted up in Portland in the last few days. Worship services and a Maine 200th birthday lecture (top photo) were cancelled at the First Parish Church. The public library (above left) is also closed. Bard Coffee in the Old Port is now offering only takeout.

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, there should be even more closures.

“Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning. “I would prefer as much as we possibly could. I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.”

Some states already are moving in that direction. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered all restaurants and bars to close for an indefinite time starting at 9 p.m. tonight, according to WTOV TV in Columbus, Ohio.

The changes escalated Wednesday after President Donald Trump told the nation he would limit travel from Europe to the United States. That same evening, the National Basketball Association suspended its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus.

The U.S. stock market quickly reflected the severity of the virus. On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped its largest amount in history, more than 2,300 points, signaling the end of the market’s almost 11-year rise.

[What it takes for Mainers to be tested for the coronavirus]

Also on Thursday, Mills announced the first probable positive coronavirus test in Maine.

By Friday, the public had accepted that times had changed. People rushed to empty store shelves of toilet paper and sanitizers. The governor and state health officials told people to keep their distance from each other. Businesses including WEX of Portland asked their employees to work from home.

But Mainers are in good company as the rest of the nation faces the same challenges.

“Today looks so different from yesterday, and you just don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like,” Christie Bauer, a family photographer and mother of three school-age children in West Linn, Oregon, told the Associated Press.

Watch: What you need to know about handwashing during coronavirus

 


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