AUGUSTA, Maine — When members of the Maine Legislature’s health and human services committee convened in January, a co-chair had a question for the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention: She wanted to know what kept Dr. Nirav Shah up at night.
“His first response was, ‘There’s a virus in China that I am concerned about,’” recalled Rep. Patricia Hymanson, D-York, who is also a physician.
Shah’s appearance in front of the committee came well before the first case of that virus — the new coronavirus — was confirmed in the United States. As the disease has turned into a global pandemic, infecting hundreds of thousands of people globally including 56 in Maine by Friday, Hymanson and others say they are impressed by Shah’s foresight and his communication skills.
Through daily press briefings and memorable analogies, the Maine CDC director is the public face of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, providing updates on the number of cases each day and explaining to Mainers the importance of social distancing and other public health measures aimed at slowing the virus’ spread.