Maine's 1st District U.S. House Rep. Chellie Pingree and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah spoke directly to Mainers Thursday night in a tele-town hall on the new coronavirus.
People called in on a conference line with questions about school closures, the potential impact of COVID-19 on Maine's tourism economy, the cost of testing, and other issues.
Pingree said making sure people have paid sick leave is vital for containing the coronavirus because if they don't they might feel compelled to work while they're sick.
"It's particularly important for people in the food service and service industry to be able to stay home," Pingree said. "We all know that's an easy way to transmit a virus, and we don't want people to come to work when they're sick, but we also want to make sure they can pay their rent, put food on the table and survive through it."
One caller asked Shah why people are so concerned about this virus, as compared to the flu.
"It's a new disease that can tax the system, something that no one has any immunity to," he said. "It spreads very quickly, and it can be quite deadly, especially for older folks. That's the reason our public health community, as well as legislators across the country, are deeply concerned.
Democrats in the House have released a coronavirus economic relief bill that includes emergency measures like paid sick leave. It also would provide free testing, and expanded unemployment benefits. It's not clear when the House will vote on the bill.