AUGUSTA — Maine health officials said Wednesday that there are still no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, with 42 people testing negative and five test results pending.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said his agency and other staff at the Maine Department of Health and Human Services continue to work with health care providers, nursing homes and the public to prepare for a potential outbreak. Additionally, the telephone helpline 211 Maine began answering general questions about coronavirus on Wednesday as officials work to respond to growing concerns and questions from the public.

Maine is the only New England state without any confirmed infections of the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 118,000 people in 114 countries and killed nearly 4,300 worldwide, according to figures from the World Health Organization Wednesday.

“There are no confirmed or presumptive positive cases in Maine at this time,” Shah told reporters Wednesday morning during a daily briefing on the Maine CDC’s tracking of the virus. “When we do receive confirmation of any positive or presumptively positive test, we will immediately notify the media. To the extent that you hear rumors from other folks, please rely on Maine CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services for any information you receive there.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that Maine would receive $4.6 million as part of an emergency $560 million appropriation to state, local and tribal governments for coronavirus responses. In announcing the award, the offices of Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine said the money would be used for monitoring, laboratory capacity, infection control and mitigation, communications and other preparedness or response activities.

“I applaud Maine’s congressional delegation for their work to secure these important funds,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement. “Although Maine does not currently have a confirmed case of the coronavirus, these funds will help us prepare for and respond to potential cases.”


The World Health Organization declared that spread of the coronavirus had reached the level of a global pandemic on Wednesday as the virus caused massive disruptions to the global economy, travel and daily life in multiple areas. A pandemic is defined as an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population.

While Maine has yet to report its first coronavirus case, the virus is still impacting life in the state, particularly on college campuses.

The University of Maine System and Bowdoin College announced Wednesday that students should plan to depart the various campuses by later this month and to complete this semester’s course-work via distance learning. For UMaine, this was an expansion from Tuesday’s announcement that the university system was prohibiting nonessential travel and encouraging students to stay on campus during spring break.

Bates College in Lewiston, meanwhile, was forced to respond to hoax flyers being distributed in the community falsely claiming the college planned “forced mass contamination” to head off coronavirus.

Maine has yet to see the widespread cancellations of large public events that are being announced in other states, although Shah said health officials are discussing the issue “quite intensively.”

“It’s something that we have been planning for and we thinking about on a day-to-day basis,” Shah said. “At this time, we don’t have any specifics in terms of numbers. But I will echo the U.S. CDC’s recommendations here, which is if you are elderly or you have chronic underlying medical conditions, you should reconsider whether to attend large gatherings. To be candid, I’ve given that same advice to my mother.”


The number of canceled events is growing steadily, however.

Special Olympics Maine announced Wednesday that all sports, training and competition events were canceled through at least the end of March.

“This decision was not an easy one to make,” Lisa Bird, director of public relations for Special Olympics Maine, said in a statement. “Canceling events has a huge impact on our staff and volunteers who have worked so hard to organize them, and is even tougher on our athletes who have been training, preparing and looking forward for weeks to compete. Many of our athletes are considered to be part of a vulnerable population due to age or compromised immune systems and we are just not willing to take the chance of anyone getting sick.”

The annual All State Jazz Festival scheduled for Friday and Saturday in South Portland also has been canceled.

As part of the effort to enhance public outreach, DHHS is partnering with the helpline 211 Maine to begin fielding general questions about coronavirus 24 hours a day. While Shah said Mainers should still call their doctor or the Maine CDC with specific medical questions or for medical advice, he said Maine 211 will be able to answer inquiries about case numbers, travel advisories and other general issues.

The CDC also continues to communicate with hospitals, doctors and other care providers about steps they should consider taking during the “window of opportunity” before infections are confirmed in Maine. Those recommendations include exploring alternatives to face-to-face meetings with patients and for hospitals to begin considering rescheduling elective surgeries that could add to their burden should coronavirus suddenly begin spreading in the community.


Shah said his agency also is urging health care providers to look after themselves and their stress levels as coronavirus concerns spread.

“This could be a very long process. It is impossible to predict what coronavirus will look like in Maine,” Shah said. “But if the examples we are seeing in other states are any guide, we need to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves so that we can take care of our patients.”

Maine’s K-12 schools also are taking steps to prepare for the virus’ spread here.

As part of that effort, Maine received authorization from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services to allow schools to continue offering free meals to low-income students at offsite locations if schools are closed because of the virus. The Maine Department of Education had requested the waiver because the free or reduced-price meal programs are subsidized with federal dollars.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, had advocated for federal officials to grant the waivers to Maine and several other states.

“For the one in five Maine children experiencing food insecurity, their school meal is often the only one that they receive each day,” Pingree, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. “As schools across the nation take precautions to prevent exposure to (COVID-19), it’s vital that states have flexibility to continue providing meals to students offsite.

“I am grateful that the USDA has moved swiftly to approve Maine’s waiver and to prevent kids from going hungry during this public health emergency.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story