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'Deep Dive: Coronavirus' Special Series Traces The Arc Of The Pandemic In Maine

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The coronavirus has changed all of our lives, and this month Maine Public is looking at some of the big emerging issues here, including the state’s public health response to the virus, its impact on the economy and education during social distancing.

Maine Public’s Director of News and Public Affairs, Mark Simpson, spoke with All Things Considered Host Nora Flaherty about the coverage so far, how it’s evolved, and what’s next.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Simpson: This has been one of these generational moments that is really changing the way all Maine people are living their lives. The stories that we’ve covered, the information that we’ve looked at, have covered the gamut, if you will, of the human experience. There’s unfortunate and sad stories, there’s inspirational and hopeful stories, and everything in between.

As you know, our team has been going to the daily briefings at the state of Maine with the CDC and also with the governor. And we’ve seen this virus as it has come into the state and where it has spread out. And so we’ve heard things about how Mainers are helping each other to get supplies where they need, even at one point — because remember, this started back in March — using a dog sled to get things places.

But also, people have been writing to us and sharing their own stories about how they’re coping with this new quarantine situation and trying to figure out what the next steps are. And so we’ve been seeing ways that this is unfolding in real time and sharing those stories with the public.

Flaherty: How has the way that we are looking at this evolved as this situation has unfolded?

Simpson: We’ve really seen that the coverage has shifted as the story has gone on. Initially, it was really to talk about the coronavirus and the illness, COVID-19, that it causes, and trying to understand who’s impacted by it. What are the symptoms to watch out for? What are the steps you can do to try to prevent it?

And as that story was unfolding, this medical story, we also saw that there was a policy angle to this in terms of primarily how the state government is responding, but then also the national government and local town governments. How are they responding to this evolving situation?

We’ve learned about things such as social distancing. We’ve seen that in other states in New England, they’re taking different steps and the severity of their cases are different than what we have here in Maine. Then there is the whole question of testing. What kind of tests do we have? What kind of equipment is available and how quickly can we get the answers to those tests?

So as the situation has changed, we’ve seen our own coverage change. And now we’re in this interesting moment where the economic impact is being felt so strongly by businesses, by families, by entities of all kinds. And we’re starting to think a little bit about how the state might reopen. This is the crux of the moment that we’re at right now. And of course, it’s tied to economics and tied to capitalism and money and families and health. It’s still all right there.

So we’ve seen that the arc of this story has changed. And we’re gonna be using this moment to talk more specifically about economics later in the month. But right now, we’re just trying to give our audience a sense of where this journey has taken us so far and what we sort of see coming up on the horizon.

Flaherty: And we are trying to make some kind of sense of this as it goes on. What can we say about our coverage starting this week?

Simpson: So we’ve broken out a series of interviews to frame the agenda around economy, state response and education. And we’re going to be hearing from our staff and reporters and also experts to help take us through this narrative.

Our Maine Calling team is also joining us in a special project that’s in conjunction with America Amplified, which is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. And it’s a regional look at how the summer in New England is going to shape up. And so we’re kicking that off on Thursday with a series of conversations. We’re doing the first one and then other stations around New England are going to pick those up as well.

I should mention, too, that we’ve got an incredible resource online at mainepublic.org/coronavirus. Because this story has been going on for so many weeks now, we have an incredible back catalog, if you will, of resources, stories, interviews that the audience will find interesting. Of course, we’ve spoken to Dr. Nirav Shah over at the state CDC a number of times. We’ve looked at the ups and downs of the employment process, looking at businesses, reopening questions, of course, about things like masks, practical questions as well. So all of that can be found online at mainepublic.org/coronavirus.

Then the last thing I do want to highlight is these wonderful stories that people from all walks of life in Maine have been calling into us and sharing their experiences, telling us their stories as well. You can find all of that online at mainepublic.org/coronavirus.