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Gov. Mills Declares Civil Emergency As Coronavirus Cases Rise In Maine

Mal Leary
Maine Public

Gov. Janet Mills declared a civil state of emergency in Maine Sunday, the same day the state Center for Disease Control increased the number of confirmed and presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in the state to 12. On Monday, that number was revised upward again to 17.

The proclamation provides Mills the authority to close schools, restaurants, retail establishments and other facilities. But thus far, Mills is only making recommendations.

“I have today signed a proclamation that declares a state of civil emergency in Maine related to the coronavirus. Proclaiming a civil state of emergency authorizes state officials to act quickly to delay and to mitigate a potential outbreak in Maine,” Mills said in announcing her recommendations.

(Related: What Mainers Need To Know About The Coronavirus)

Governors in other states have banned gatherings over 50 people, closed schools and taken other steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Mills is recommending schools cease classroom instruction as soon as possible, that no meetings with 50 or more people be held, and that in the case of high-risk individuals, no gatherings of more than 10. But the governor is not using her authority to require such steps.

“The emergency order, the civil emergency order, just signed this afternoon allows me to make those orders if necessary, certain orders, but I am not prepared to do that right now,” she saod.

Mills said if federal CDC officials believe such steps should be mandated, she will consider using her authority to order them in Maine.

Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said his agency is working to alleviate shortages of both personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves but also needed hospital equipment.

Shah told reporters the Maine CDC started distributing its stockpile of personal protective equipment last week as his agency took stock of supplies at hospitals and other health care providers.

“Nevertheless, the supply of PPE is a challenge, given what we view is a long-term activation and a sustained need for PPE across the health care spectrum,” he said.

Shah said the state has been assured additional protective equipment. About 13,000 masks and 17,000 pairs of gloves will be delivered from the federal government strategic reserve by the end of the week. The state CDC is preparing a request for ventilators from the reserve as well.

Shah also said one case of coronavirus was likely acquired through community transmission.

“At least one of these cases resulted from an infection that cannot be linked to travel or importation from another affected part of the country. That is to say, the individual most likely acquired his or her infection within the state of Maine,” he said.

Updated March 16, 2020 at 12:18 p.m. ET.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.