WESTBROOK — Fire Chief and City Health Officer Andrew Turcotte says although residents “are navigating uncharted waters,” their resiliency will serve them well during the coronavirus pandemic and the precautions put in place to combat its spread.

“ I have no doubt every person should get through this. We have very resilient residents that live in Westbrook and I want to thank them,” Turcotte said this week during a live broadcast on Facebook with Mayor Mike Foley.

The broadcast Tuesday provided no new details on the status of a Westbrook resident being treated for a presumptive case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

Foley said it is not known how the resident was infected.

“At this point we do not have any idea,” he said.

The resident, who is not being identified for confidentiality reasons, is being treated at Maine Medical Center.

“We expected a case at some point, and it is here,” Turcotte said. “As the outbreak dominates our news, this is a growing source of concern. We want to assure all of you, family and friends, you remain our top priority.”

Foley declared a state of emergency in the city Sunday and on Monday announced the creation of a task force aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

The city has shut down all municipal buildings to the general public until further notice and has canceled all public municipal meetings through May 11.

Schools will be closed at least until March 30.

School officials Monday were handing out remote learning packages, including laptops for middle and high school students, to children in all grades and programs.  Parents are asked to call the schools if they need to pick up supplies at another time, if they have any questions or need other resources for remote learning.

The school lunch program will provide takeout meals.

This will certainly have an impact. Anytime we are away, learning becomes for of a challenge. Nothing replaces direct instruction with our teachers. There will be disruption. The magnitude we don’t know yet. In case (closure is) longer than two weeks, we are working to see how to minimize that significant impact on all of our kids,” Superintendent Peter Lancia said in an interview.

Teachers will continue to maintain contact with students throughout the school closure.

“Many people are frightened and anxious. Please take time to talk with your children about how they are feeling. It’s just as important to check in about our emotional well-being along with our physical health,” Lancia said in a letter to the community.

The Maine Principals’ Association has pushed back high school teams’ preseason practices by a month. They are scheduled to resume April 27.

The Westbrook Community Center is closed, but the General Assistance office will be open by appointment only “or over the phone whenever possible,” said Director Greg Post. Residents should call the General Assistance office for appointments.

The Westbrook Food Pantry at the community center be open on Tuesdays from noon to 2 p.m. and from 5-7 p.m. Volunteers will be stationed at exterior door No. 25,  at the front of the building, and will provide Westbrook residents with pre-packaged bags of food.

Meals on Wheels will continue to deliver prepared meals to homebound older adults in the Westbrook and Portland communities.

The closures come during a busy meeting season in Westbrook, when city and school officials are working on next year’s budgets. Foley said city officials are working out plans to hold virtual meetings to continue government work in accordance with state law.

Those plans tentatively include broadcasting videos live on Facebook and other apps, as well as on television, taking public comments through comments.

Meanwhile, emergency services in Westbrook are running smoothly.

“We’ve been preparing for this since the end of December. We knew it was a matter of time before it got here, but we did not expect this magnitude,” Turcotte said.

“We prepared with a number of things, including reevaluating our policies and procedures related to infectious disease, hand hygiene, looking at our pandemic and infectious disease policies and training for staff on what this will look like in regards to how it will impact us operationally. Our goal is to continue educating the public as this progresses,” Turcotte said.

The city will regularly update people through Facebook live videos, and has created a page on its website specifcally for the updates.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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