The New England First Amendment Coalition has coordinated with a group of news organizations in Maine to jointly demand the release of localized COVID-19 case data from the state government.

Maine is the only New England state that has declined to provide data about COVID-19 cases on a town-by-town basis.

The coalition said Wednesday in a news release that it and and other open government advocates wrote to Gov. Janet Mills and Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, on April 27 explaining the public interest in releasing the data.

“Access to more information on numbers of COVID-19 cases by specific location would have direct public health benefits, by allowing the public to better prepare and take precautions,” attorney Sigmund Schutz, a coalition board member, wrote on behalf of the organizations. “It would also serve to enhance public confidence in Maine’s response by replacing rumors and suspicion with solid data.”

Schutz is the Portland Press Herald’s attorney on issues related to public disclosure laws, and the Press Herald is a member of the coalition.

The coalition then coordinated with newsrooms throughout the state last week to further increase pressure on state officials to release the data by submitting identical public records requests. The coordinated effort is intended to demonstrate the right of citizens to know how many cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have been identified in their communities, it said.


“Our point was to make some noise about this,” said Judy Meyer, executive editor of the Lewiston Sun Journal, who helped coordinate the joint effort.

The Sun Journal is owned by Reade Brower, who also owns the Press Herald.

“Employers want to know. People want to know,” Meyer said in the release. “This seems like information we all need to know to make good decisions about ourselves and our families. It’s a people issue as much as it is a press issue.”

As of Wednesday morning, the First Amendment Coalition had not received a response to its request for localized COVID-19 data from the state, according to the release.

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