SOUTH PORTLAND — A staff member and parent in the South Portland School District have tested positive for COVID-19, announced Superintendent Ken Kunin on March 25.

Workers load meals into a school bus at a pickup location in South Portland. The school district is maintaining its free lunch program, despite the schools being temporarily closed due to coronavirus. Courtesy photo

In a letter to families, Kunin said the two individuals were associated with different schools.

“We are aware of others who are under self-quarantine recommended by medical professionals who represent still different schools,” Kunin said.

On March 23, Kunin sent families a letter urging anyone that has been impacted by COVID-19 to contact their school’s principal or nurse.

“It is critical for us to have a clearinghouse of information of South Portland Schools’ students, staff or families impacted by COVID-19,” he said. “We need to know if folks have been tested, if folks are connected to someone tested and folks who have been advised to self-quarantine by a doctor or by the Maine CDC. This will help us in our consultations with Maine CDC and public health officials and will be greatly appreciated.”

Maine had more than 300 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of March 31, according to the Maine CDC website.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, urged residents to remain cautious.

“Maine people should live their lives as if COVID-19 is in their community,” he said. “Physical distancing in every part of Maine is crucial to limit the potential spread of the virus. You can be there for loved ones without being in the same place.”

Kunin also stressed the importance of maintaining physical distance from others in the announcement on March 25.

“In a letter sent to the community last week we noted that public health officials and doctors stress that this means no play dates, not even 1:1, no small gatherings, no meetings between a couple families, even for birthday parties,” Kunin said. “It also means no soccer or basketball games and no hanging out in groups other than the online variety. We all love to be together and socialize, but unfortunately, we are being told clearly by medical professionals that this is not something we can do at this time.”

According to a statement from the Maine Department of Agriculture, Cultivation, and Forestry, Overcrowding and social gatherings caused  the closing of select state parks along the coast, including Reid State Park, Popham Beach State Park, Fort Popham, Fort Baldwin, Kettle Cove State Park, Two Lights State Park, Crescent Beach State Park, Scarborough Beach State Park, Ferry Beach State Park, and Mackworth Island.

The department sent out the statement on March 26.

“Closing any of our state parks is the last thing we want to do,” Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal said. “We are keeping as many parks as possible open, and we encourage people to look for ways to take much-needed breaks in the outdoors that allow them to avoid crowded places and maintain physical distancing.”

“If efforts at following sound public health guidance are successful, we will experience less illness in our community as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic,” Kunin said.

The earliest date that South Portland schools are set to reopen is April 27, Kunin announced on March 20.

“By following the guidance we receive daily from public health professionals, we will continue to take all of the proper precautions that will enable us to continue to remotely educate our 3,000 students, provide needed meals to our children and prepare for the eventual reopening of our schools,” Kunin said in the announcement of the two positive cases.

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