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Mills Urges Mainers To 'Stay The Course' Amid Increase In COVID-19 Deaths And Cases

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Augusta, Maine.

As Maine reports two new deaths from COVID-19, and 28 new cases of the coronavirus, Gov. Janet Mills urged Mainers to "stay the course" in the effort to stamp out the virus.

In a statement delivered Friday at the state's daily coronavirus briefing, Mills cited the 1,000 new cases that have turned up in Georgia, where restrictions have been relaxed, and a one-day death total of 252 in Massachusetts. She said dealing with the pandemic is akin to threading a needle between saving lives and protecting the economy.

Mills said Maine has allowed more leeway than many other states for some businesses to operate, among them "construction, industrial manufacturing, fishing, home repair, pharmacies, auto repair," she said, listing several others.

Mills acknowledged "frustration" and "anger" with Maine's reopening plan. "I'm not a quitter. Maine people are not quitters," she said, saying more testing capacity is needed before the state can speed up reopening.

"People are angry and frustrated, some losing patience. But no matter what, I will keep hearing you. I will keep listening to you and we will listen to each other. We will work with each other. We'll do everything in our power to keep each other safe."

Her remarks came after a business owner in Newry publicly criticized the Governor's plan to keep eateries closed to dine in traffic until June. Rick Savage declared his intention on Fox News to defy the closure and proceeded to share the governor's personal phone number during Thursday's broadcast of Tucker Carlson Tonight.

Mills did not specifically address that situation but called the virus "an equal opportunity destroyer" that doesn't care about politics.

"Some are engaging in partisan political chatter over this pandemic. But we know that the virus plays no favorites. It doesn't care whether you're a Republican, a Democrat, a Green or an independent, unregistered or unenrolled."

Friday, May 1 is the first day where certain restrictions on some Maine businesses have been lifted.

But Mills said it's essential to reopen the state in a thoughtful manner, and protect public health and safety.

Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Maine has now had a total 1,123 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. "The risk of a surge in the number of cases is very much with us" if Maine reopens too quickly, he said.

"Curves don't flatten themselves. Viruses just don't disappear.  And epidemics don't just go away on their own," he said. "All of those things happen because each and every one of you has taken the steps that public health folks across the country and across the state have recommended."

The two people who died overnight were a man in his 40's from Waldo County and a woman in her 80s from Cumberland County, Shah said.

A total of 657 people have recovered from the virus, an increase of 26 since Thursday, and 177 have been hospitalized. Of those, 37 are currently hospitalized, 17 of them in the ICU. Nine of those in intensive care are on ventilators.