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  • Executive Order for online training for COVID-19 jobs at Maine’s Community Colleges

    Order allows for greater flexibility to train workers online for critical jobs needed to address the effects of COVID-19

     

    Augusta, MAINE - Governor Janet Mills signed an executive order allowing Maine Quality Centers (MQC) to swiftly address the changing demands in Maine’s job market due to widespread economic disruption caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Governor Mills’ order suspends certain restrictions, on an as-needed basis, on job training funds managed by the Maine Community College System’s MQC program. Suspending those restrictions, such as eligibility and employer matching funds, gives the MQC program more flexibility to rapidly provide free online training to people who have been displaced by the recent effects of COVID-19.

    “Maine’s Community Colleges have always played a critical role in providing training and skills to strengthen our workforce. With the State battling COVID-19, that work is more important than ever,” said Governor Mills. “This Executive Order provides our Community College System with the flexibility it needs to enhance their workforce development efforts and help fill vital jobs, such as those in the health care field, as quickly as possible."

    “We are grateful the governor acted decisively so that Maine Quality Centers can get to work immediately, training people online to meet the incredible, sudden demands of our changing economic landscape,” Maine Community College System President David Daigler said. “So many people have lost their jobs because of COIVD-19. But overnight there is a huge demand for workers in certain jobs, such as medical assisting and pharmaceutical technicians. We need to give people the training and skills they need to step into those jobs as quickly as possible.”

    Maine Quality Centers is working closely with workforce training professionals at all seven of Maine’s community colleges across the state to develop and implement free online training programs. MQC is coordinating its efforts with the Department of Labor and other workforce agencies for the recruitment and screening of participants in the new online programs.

     

  • Maine Records First Death of Individual Who Tested Positive for COVID-19

    03/27/2020 

    AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) today reported the first death of an individual who had tested positive for the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The individual was a man in his 80s from Cumberland County. Due to privacy laws, Maine CDC is limited in releasing further details.

    "This is a sad day for the State of Maine. I know I join countless people in extending my condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones during this difficult time," said Governor Janet Mills. "Our state is a family. And while we mourn the loss of a member of our Maine family today, I find strength and solace in knowing that we will support one another and that, together, we will get through this."

    Governor Mills will join Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC, for a news conference at 11:30 a.m. today at the Maine Emergency Management Agency, 45 Commerce Drive, Suite 2, Augusta.

    Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, shortness of breath, and lower respiratory distress. Individuals who exhibit those symptoms are advised to contact medical providers before going to a health care facility. Medical providers will make initial determinations about who should be tested.

    Maine people can protect their health by taking the same preventive measures that help to avoid catching a cold: Wash your hands often for 20 seconds. Cover coughs and sneezes. Stay home if you are sick. In Maine and nationwide, the public is advised to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, which include avoiding crowds, staying 6 feet away from others, not shaking hands or hugging, and using phones or other media to chat with friends and loved ones rather than meeting face to face.

    As of March 26 at noon, the Maine CDC had recorded 155 positive tests and 3,394 negative tests for COVID-19, and the U.S. CDC was reporting 994 deaths of individuals in the United States who tested positive for COVID-19.

    For more information

  • Maine's Unemployed Should Consider Their Health Insurance Coverage Options As Soon As Possible

    03/25/2020 04:30 PM EDT
    "Mainers who have recently lost their employment should consider their health insurance coverage options as soon as possible, to protect themselves and their families," stated Maine Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa.

    The Superintendent reminded Mainers that individuals and families have 60 days from the day they lose their coverage to apply for a new policy.

    The best place to start is at www.healthcare.gov, which may provide more affordable options than an employer's COBRA plan Cioppa stated. Depending on household size and household income, individuals and families may qualify for subsidized private insurance or free or low-cost coverage through MaineCare. Completing a Marketplace application will provide individuals and family with the information about what type of coverage they qualify for.

    Mainers can get help applying for coverage by contacting Consumers for Affordable Health Care at 800-965-7476. More information is available at www.mainecahc.org/covid-19-coronavirus/.

    In the past two weeks, the Superintendent has issued orders requiring - among other things that private, fully insured plans pay the full costs of testing for COVID-19; and pay the cost of telehealth services (including services by phone) at the same rate as comparable in-person health services.

    The Department of Health and Human Services has made similar provisions for MaineCare recipients. While these additional protections in the face of the current pandemic are critical to slowing the spread of the virus and to protecting our citizens, both physically and financially, individuals need to do what they can to protect themselves from other COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 health risk and costs, said Cioppa.

    My staff is always available Mondays through Fridays, 8am-5pm, to assist Maine consumers with insurance questions and problems.

    Consumers with questions about insurance matters can obtain information and assistance from the Maine Bureau of Insurance by visiting www.maine.gov/insurance, calling 800-300-5000 (TTY call Maine Relay 711), or e-mailing Insurance.PFR@maine.gov.

    Mainers can learn more about MaineCare by visiting www.CoverME.gov/eligibility.
  • Maine's Governor Mills Orders Further Steps to Protect Public Health

    Governor also urges large essential businesses to limit in-store customers, enhance curbside pick-up and delivery services, and implement physical distancing measures to protect customer and employee health

    Under the authority granted to her during a State of Civil Emergency, Governor Janet Mills  issued an Executive Order on March 24, 2020 mandating that all non-essential businesses and operations in Maine close their physical locations that are public facing, meaning those that allow customer, vendor or other in-person contact. The Order also closes non-essential business sites that require more than ten workers to convene in a space where physical distancing is not possible. Non-essential businesses and operations may continue activities that do not involve these types of in-person contact and convenings, and should facilitate the maximum number of employees working remotely.

    The Order is effective tomorrow, March 25, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and extends for a period of 14 days through April 8, 2020 at 12:00 a.m.

    It solidifies as a mandate her previous recommendation to close non-essential business sites. 

    Governor Mills also strongly urged all large, essential, public-facing businesses to immediately employ strategies to reduce congestion in their stores, including limiting the number of customers in the store at any one time and enhancing curbside pick-up and delivery services. These measures, aimed specifically at high-traffic retail stores in Maine that provide essential goods and services, seek to better protect both customers and employees from the threat of COVID-19. 

    “Today, I am taking further action to mitigate the spread of the virus, to protect the health of our loved ones and fellow citizens, and to safeguard the capacity of our health care system,” said Governor Mills. “I recognize these decisions will create significant difficulties for people and businesses across our state, but we are confronting an unprecedented challenge that is threatening the health and safety of our people.”

    “Maine people should live their lives as if COVID-19 is in their community,” said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Physical distancing in every part of Maine is crucial to limit potential spread of the virus. You can be there for loved ones without being in the same place.”

    Governor Mills continues to strongly urge all Maine people to practice physical distancing. She particularly urged Maine residents who are considered at higher risk from COVID-19, such as older Mainers and those with underlying health conditions, to limit physical interactions with other people as much as possible.

    Non-essential businesses and operations subject to the Governor’s Executive Order include, but are not limited to, shopping malls, fitness and exercise gyms, spas, barber shops, hair salons, tattoo and piercing parlors, massage facilities, nail technicians, cosmetologists and estheticians, electrolysis services, laser hair removal services, and similar personal care and treatment facilities and services.

    The Executive Order excludes businesses that provide essential services including, but not limited to: food processing, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, construction, trash collection, grocery and household goods (including convenience stores), home repair and hardware and auto repair, pharmacy and other medical facilities, biomedical, behavioral health and health care providers, child care, post offices and shipping outlets, insurance, banks, gas stations, laundromats, veterinary clinics and animal feed and supply stores, shipping stores, public transportation, and hotel and commercial lodging. 

    State government remains open, but offices have significantly moved to telework and dispatch from home, limited client engagement, and have required physical distancing within office buildings. The Department of Administrative and Financial Services estimates that 70 percent of state government employees are working remotely. The Governor urges Maine people to avail themselves of the state’s online services and resources.

    For those essential businesses that remain open, Governor Mills strongly urged them to implement physical distancing measures.  She specifically urged high-traffic retail stores in Maine that provide essential goods and services to immediately employ strategies to reduce congestion in their stores, including:

    • For stores with a physical retail space of more than 5,000 feet, limiting customers to no more than 100 at any one time;
    • Enhancing their curbside pick-up and delivery services;
    • Staggering their hours for shoppers of a certain age;
    • Closing fitting rooms;
    • Cautioning customers against handling merchandise they are not purchasing;
    • Marking six-foot measurements by the cashier stations and reminding customers to remain six feet apart while in store;
    • Staggering break times for employees and require frequent hand-washing;
    • Frequently sanitizing high-touch areas, such as shopping carts.

    These measures come as Governor Mills seeks to strengthen physical distancing measures in Maine to better protect both customers and employees from the threat of COVID-19. Physical distancing is considered one of the most effective methods to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

    If the function of your business is not listed, but you believe that it is essential, you may request designation as an essential business at https://www.maine.gov/essentialservice

    Questions may also be directed to business.answers@maine.gov.

    To align with today’s Executive Order, Governor Mills today also renewed her previous Executive Order prohibiting gatherings of more than ten people and the closure of dine-in service at restaurants and bars in Maine to extend its timeframe to April 8, 2020 at 12:00 a.m. Today’s Executive Order does not modify the previous Executive Order in any other manner. 

    Governor Mills is taking into consideration all COVID-19 response options, including a stay-at-home restriction. She is consulting with the Maine CDC, other clinicians and health system leaders, other states that have invoked this option, and other members of her Coronavirus Response Team. Those discussions are ongoing, and include, but are not limited to the public health efficacy of such orders compared to existing measures, Maine-specific factors, and their potential secondary health and economic implications. The Governor will make recommendations based upon their advice and what she deems is in the best interest of the health and safety of Maine people.

    The Governor has taken steps to protect Maine workers and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Upon Governor Mills’ request, the Small Business Administration (SBA) declared that Maine businesses are now eligible to apply for economic support loans to help them overcome any temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19. Additionally, the emergency omnibus package she signed temporarily revises eligibility for unemployment insurance to extend it to individuals whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19. It also temporarily waives the one week waiting period for benefits so that workers may obtain benefits faster and ensures that claims for UI will not affect an employer’s experience rating. It also establishes a consumer loan guarantee program through FAME, in partnership with financial institutions, to provide low- or no- interest loans for eligible people in Maine.

    These new steps from the Governor build on the work done by the Mills Administration to respond to COVID-19, including:

    • Convening a Coronavirus Response Team, led by Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah and comprised of key individuals in the Mills Administration, to coordinate State government’s response across departments and local agencies and health authorities;
    • Signing a proclamation of civil emergency to bring the State of Maine to highest alert and allowing her to deploy all available state resources to protect the health and safety of Maine people and to take every action she reasonably deems necessary to help respond to and protect against the spread of COVID-19 in Maine. The proclamation also eased Maine’s access to critical federal aid to boost response efforts.
    • Signing into law a $73 million supplemental budget proposal that protects the health and well-being of Maine people as the State responds to COVID-19;
    • Signing into law a package of emergency measures granting her access to at least $11 million in State funding to respond to COVID-19, expanding authorities of State and local officials to allow them greater flexibility to respond to the virus, and provide support to Maine workers impacted by the virus.
    • Mandating that all restaurants and bars statewide close to dine-in customers until midnight, March 31, 2020 and prohibiting all gatherings of more than 10 people until further notice. 
    • Distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to first responders and health care professionals across Maine as it becomes available and pressing the Federal government to provide more PPE and testing supplies to the State of Maine
    • Issuing a Declaration of Abnormal Market Disruption, drafted in close consultation with Attorney General Aaron M. Frey, to prohibit price gouging of certain necessities;
    • Declaring a health insurance emergency to require health insurance carriers providing health care coverage in Maine’s commercial market to cover costs related to coronavirus testing and increase access to care. 
    • Directing the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to issue emergency rules to ensure MaineCare does not charge copays for office visits and prescription drugs that may be needed for COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment, and to allow for a prescription refill of up to 90 days so people have to make fewer visits to pharmacies. 
    • Recommending ending classroom instruction in all public schools as soon as reasonably practical
    • Applying for and receiving a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools the ability to provide meals offsite to students, if the school or community currently has, or qualifies for, a USDA Summer Food Service Program.
    • Recommending hospital systems and health care providers across Maine postpone non-urgent medical procedures, elective surgeries, and appointments until further notice.
    • Recommending all long-term care providers prohibit all visitors and non-essential health care personnel; except for certain compassionate care situations such as an end of life situation, until further notice.
    • Pressing President Trump to marshal the resources of the federal government to support Maine’s vital fishing and seafood industries. 
    • Convening a call with Maine’s Congressional delegation to discuss the State’s response to COVID-19 and the Congressional delegation’s ongoing work to support those efforts.
    • Temporarily suspending non-essential, out-of-state travel for all State employees and reviewing leave policies and telecommuting options.
    • Launching a 211 option for Mainers to get answers to questions about COVID-19 at any time. This service is available by dialing 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211, or emailing info@211maine.org.

    For more information on Maine’s response to COVID-19 and updated testing results, visit the Maine CDC website.

    The best thing that Maine people can do to protect their health is to practice physical distancing and take the same preventive measures that avoid catching a cold: Wash your hands often for 20 seconds. Cover coughs and sneezes. Stay home if you are sick. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, shortness of breath, and lower respiratory distress. Call ahead to a health care professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness. Health care providers will make the initial determination on whether COVID-19 testing is necessary.

  • Maine DHHS Acts to Ensure Access to Health Care, Food, and Basic Necessities

    03/17/2020 

    AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is taking immediate steps to ensure access to critical services and benefits for Maine people while protecting the health of employees and the public in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

    "We are acting swiftly to maintain Maine people's access to health care coverage, nutritious food, and support for basic necessities in the face of COVID-19, while also safeguarding their health and the health of our valued employees," said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew.

    These steps include supporting MaineCare members through the implementation of emergency rules effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020 that will:

    • Waive all copays for prescriptions, office visits, emergency department visits, radiology and lab services
    • Allow early refills of prescriptions
    • Allow providers to extend 34-day supply maximums on brand prescriptions (MaineCare already allows 90-day supplies of generic prescriptions)
    • Waive initial prior authorization requirements for asthma and for immune-related drugs
    • Lengthen the period that prior authorization applies for prescription medications
    • Lengthen the period that prior authorization applies for certain durable medical equipment, such as home oxygen therapy, glucose test strips, and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) supplies for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, those with pending test results who are in self-isolation, and those in a high-risk category for infection
    • Extend the amount of time that home health providers have to submit plans of care from within five business days to within 30 business days from the start of services

    In addition to these changes, the Department made an immediate change Tuesday to our telehealth policy through emergency rule, to allow for prescribing through telehealth. This change is effective immediately.

    MaineCare telehealth policy already allows providers and members to meet any face-to-face requirements for services through telehealth, when medically appropriate and when it will result in comparable quality of service. For services that traditionally have not been considered medically appropriate or of comparable quality via telehealth, such as Intensive Outpatient Treatment or Home and Community-Based Treatment, providers are encouraged to consider alternative treatment options that could be more appropriately delivered via telehealth (such as one-on-one counseling visits).

    Additionally, DHHS has made two changes effective immediately that do not require emergency rulemaking. First, to the greatest extent allowable under federal law, DHHS will accept eligibility verification by self-attestation to facilitate efficient processing of MaineCare applications and recertifications. Second, we will waive premiums for MaineCare services, such as the Working Disabled, Cub Care, Katie Beckett, and Special Benefit programs. Failure to pay those premiums will not result in case closure.

    DHHS is also acting to support social distancing in our 16 regional offices, without disrupting critical benefits and services. In line with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DHHS is limiting its interactions with the public to accepting paperwork for drop-off. Clients are being encouraged to fill out and submit applications and reviews for programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and MaineCare online through My Maine Connection. Paperwork may be submitted via fax, email or postal carrier. The toll-free number is 1 (855) 797-4357 and agents are available from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

    DHHS offices remain open at this time, and clients can fill out applications in person if they prefer. If clients need assistance, they will be encouraged to call the toll-free number to speak with an agent.

    DHHS also issued an emergency rule effective Friday, March 13 allowing all TANF application and annual review interviews, which are required to determine eligibility, to be held by telephone rather than in person. TANF orientations, which are completed during the application process, also will be held by phone rather than through visits to one of the Department's vendor locations, also known as Fedcap Opportunity Centers. Fedcap is limiting in-person contact for ASPIRE participants, encouraging and facilitating remote participation.

    DHHS also will limit in-person interviews for fraud investigations and quality control audits, and will hold all administrative hearings by telephone.

    DHHS has requested approval from the federal government as needed to allow for additional flexibility, including extending annual review periods for TANF, SNAP and MaineCare for up to three months.

  • Maine Supplemental Budget Targets Funds to Protect People and Safeguard the Economy during COVID-19

    On March 16, 2020 Governor Janet Mills and Legislative leaders reached a bipartisan agreement on a revised supplemental budget proposal that protects the health and well-being of Maine people as the State responds to the 2019 novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. In a vote this evening, the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee unanimously approved the proposal. 

    The $73 million revised proposal, which is $52 million less than originally proposed, removes several items presented in Governor Mills’ first supplemental budget and now prioritizes initiatives related to COVID-19, including a $1 million funding infusion for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which will be used to supplement federal funds to expand capacity at the State laboratory and to hire and retain critical health care personnel including epidemiologists and public health nurses to respond to the pandemic. The revised proposal also now includes $15 million for rate increases to support direct health care providers who are caring for Maine seniors, people with disabilities and children with behavioral health needs, $38 million for pre-K-12 education raising the State’s contribution by one percent from 50.78 to 51.78 percent, another step towards the 55 percent in state law, and $10 million to repair the State’s roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure. 

    It also dedicates $17.4 million to the Budget Stabilization Fund to prepare for the possibility of future COVID-19 related expenses or any shifts in Maine’s economy as a result of COVID-19. If the increase is approved by the Legislature, the Budget Stabilization Fund will have grown by approximately $50 million since Governor Mills took office.

    “This revised proposal represents a bipartisan effort to strengthen the State’s ability to respond to and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Maine,” said Governor Mills. “It takes strong steps to boost Maine’s health care system in support of our most vulnerable citizens, support the Maine CDC, and prepare for the very real prospect of an economic downturn related to the virus. I thank Legislative leaders for rising to the challenge of our times to reach this agreement and protect Maine people and our economy.” 

    “With the status of Maine’s COVID-19 rapidly changing, the Governor, Legislative leaders and members of the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee have put together a smart, responsible spending package that will support health care professionals, workers and businesses amid this public health crisis,” said Senate President Troy Jackson. “It also meets the fundamental needs of this state that can’t afford to be delayed any longer. In times of uncertainty, we must put partisanship aside and put Maine people first, which is what we did. All of us are committed to learning from other states and making sure Maine is better able to weather this outbreak.”

    “In these highly unusual times, we must all adjust to a very new and unfamiliar ‘normal’ for the short term while being mindful of our neighbors, family, and friends,” said Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow. “This is also true here in the State Capitol, where all of us have been working collaboratively through the weekend and beyond to look after the best interests of all Mainers.”

    “Protecting the health and financial security of Maine's working families during a challenging and unpredictable time is the priority of this bipartisan legislation,” said House Speaker Sara Gideon. “As elected officials, we have a grave and urgent responsibility to take decisive action to confront this crisis. Working together is the only way we will be able mitigate this pandemic and I want to thank Governor Mills, Senate President Jackson, Senator Dow and Representative Dillingham for their unwavering commitment to this coordinated response. Across Maine government, that effort will continue as we work to put in place effective, evidence-based measures to ensure the safety of Maine families, communities and our economy.”

    “The legislation is a bipartisan effort to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham. “It represents a shared commitment to acting swiftly and decisively to try and mitigate the impact of COVID-19. It sends a message to the public that we are addressing the needs of our state together, encouraging people to help one another, take the threat seriously, and minimize panic.”

    In addition to revising the original supplemental proposal downward, the new proposal does not draw from any of the $74 million in funding projected earlier this month by the Maine Revenue Forecasting Committee.

    The Governor and Legislative leaders also agreed on a bond package of $105 million of transportation funding and $15 million to expand high-speed internet access, a critical need as much of the state temporarily transitions to remote learning and remote work during this period of social distancing.

    With the revised supplemental, the State budget would stand at $8.086 billion.

    The proposal is in addition to a series of bipartisan emergency bills under consideration by the Legislature to support the State’s response.

  • Full Plates Full Potential Maine Fund will help kids get meals during COVID - 19 School Closures

    Full Plates Full Potential, the Maine-based nonprofit working to end child hunger statewide, announced a Full Plates Emergency Fund on March 17,2020.

     The Emergency Fund will support schools and organizations statewide through grants during the COVID - 19 pandemic.  The Emergency Fund begins with $31,000 through the incredible support of our FEED KIDS Partners and donations from the public. 

    This urgent public health crisis for COVID -19 changed dramatically for schools after Governor Janet Mills and the Maine CDC recommended on March 13th that all schools close as soon as practical.  

    “We have been fielding requests from schools and funders asking what Full Plates can do to help kids get meals while schools are closed,” said Justin Alfond, Full Plates Full Potential’s co-director. “The Emergency Fund will give critical grants to schools and organizations on the front line distributing breakfast and lunch meals. The fund gives everyone an opportunity to be generous to kids who every day rely on school as their primary source of nutrition.”

    To learn more about the Full Plates Full Potential Emergency Fund or to apply for funding go to   https://www.fullplates.org/emergency-funding/. Grants up to $1,000 will be given to schools or organizations. Grants will help pay for the increased costs of preparing more meals, safe packaging for breakfast and lunch meals, and transportation costs of distributing meals.

    “School Nutrition Directors and their staff are coming up with incredible solutions to get meals to their kids,” said Anna Korsen, Program Director at Full Plates Full Potential. “We established the Emergency Fund to help all of our school and organizational partners, but especially prioritizing those that cannot be reimbursed for the meals they serve."

    Maine Child Hunger Statistics for 2019/2020 Academic Year:

    • 184,000 is the total student population

    • 43% of students qualify for free and reduced school meals

    • 80,000 of students qualify for free and reduced school meals

    • Schools with fewer than 50 percent of students eligible for free and reduced school meals are not eligible to operate the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program.  This will affect over 100,000 students living in communities where emergency meals will not be reimbursed by either the federal or state government.                                                                                   

    About Full Plates Full Potential

    Full Plates Full Potential is on a mission to end child hunger in Maine by partnering with nonprofit advocates, local businesses and restaurants, advocating for policy changes at the state level, granting funds and providing technical assistance to schools, hosting year-round events and fundraisers, and promoting the FEED KIDS cause marketing initiative. Learn more at fullplates.org. 

  • DEP reminds Mainers of what not to flush- other countries put in trash

    AUGUSTA, Maine, March 20, 2020 — 

    Properly functioning sewer systems are extremely important for the protection of public health and to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). 

    Countries around the globe put their excrement in a garbage bin to go out with the trash or to be composted. If you are using anything besides toliet paper people in America should do the same.

    To help keep these systems functioning properly, the DEP is reminding people that the following products should not be flushed:

    • Baby wipes or cleaning wipes
    • Paper towels
    • Tissues
    • Dental Floss
    • Tampons and sanitary products
    • Cotton balls and swabs
    • Cat litter
    • Prescription drugs
    • Over-the-counter medicines
    • Cigarette butts

    Unlike toilet paper, these products do not break down and once flushed they are likely to clog the plumbing in your house, in your septic system, or in the public sewer system. 

    When these products make their way into the public sewer system they clump together, causing very large obstructions in the sewer lines. They get tangled in pump stations requiring repair of equipment and causing backups and discharges of raw sewage into basements of homes and businesses, and into waters of the state. 

    Due to the potential for public works staffing shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, response time to repair clogged sewers could be substantially delayed.

    Maine DEP and wastewater treatment facilities across the state reminds everyone to make sure they are only flushing toilet paper and properly disposing of all other materials. 

    For additional information, contact:

    David R. Madore, Communications Director

    (207) 287-5842

    david.madore@maine.gov

    or

    Brian Kavanah, Director, Bureau of Water Quality

    (207) 287-7700

    brian.w.kavanah@maine.gov

  • Governor Mills signs Civil Emergency Proclamation to Respond to COVID-19 in Maine

     

    Augusta, MAINE – In the wake of several new presumptive positive cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Governor Janet Mills announced several new significant recommendations to respond to COVID-19 and signed a proclamation of civil emergency to further protect public health. Governor Mills is recommending:

     

    • Ending classroom instruction in all public schools as soon as reasonably practical.
    • Postponing all non-urgent medical procedures, elective surgeries, and appointments at hospitals and health care providers across the state until further notice.
    • Restricting visitors and all non-essential health care personnel to long-term care facilities except for certain compassionate care situations such as end of life until further notice.
    • Postponing all events with 50 or more people all gatherings of more than 10 that include individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness, such as seniors, until further notice.

    Governor Mills issued the following statement:

     

    “With several new presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in Maine, it is important that we prepare and respond – but not panic. The Maine CDC has prepared for this eventuality since last year and we are coordinating across government and with communities statewide to respond to this threat. Proclaiming a state of civil emergency unleashes critical state authorities and allows access to federal funds that will support our response efforts to delay and mitigate the outbreak in Maine. These new recommendations will also further protect Maine people.

     

    “Perhaps it is some odd fate that today we also celebrate Maine’s 200th year as a state. Two hundred years ago, we separated ourselves from Massachusetts and embarked on creating our own destiny as a state. We then, as Maine people, learned to be self-reliant and, at the same time, to rely on each other. Today, we are self-reliant and, at the same time, we rely on each other

     

    “Time and again, Maine people have risen to the challenges put in front of us. We have conquered them because we are a strong, resilient people – borne of the western foothills; the northern potato fields; the bold, rocky coasts; and the tall, pine forests. We have been lifted up by the courage, conviction and resilience that comes from loving a place and its people. Together, we will get through this.”

     

    The Proclamation to Further Protect Public Health signed by Governor Mills today brings the State of Maine to highest alert and allows Governor Mills to deploy all available state resources to protect the health and safety of Maine people and to take every action she reasonably deems necessary to help respond to and protect against the spread of COVID-19 in Maine. It also eases Maine’s access to critical federal aid to boost response efforts.

     

    Governor Mills also strongly recommended that:

     

    1. Ending classroom instruction in all public schools as soon as reasonably practical.

     

    The Maine Department of Education has been working closely with school systems in preparation for this step and has secured a waiver from the USDA to allow schools to provide meals offsite to students.

     

    Governor Mills has also directed the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to pursue federal waivers that will help ensure additional child care capacity. Additionally, she has directed Maine DHHS to work with health care organizations on standing up child care centers for their workers along, along with other options to keep front-line workers protecting the public’s health and safety.

     

    1. All hospital systems and health care providers across Maine postpone non-urgent medical procedures, elective surgeries, and appointments until further notice.

     

    This will relieve the strain on the health care system as Maine prioritizes COVID-19-related cases.

     

    1. All long-term care providers prohibit all visitors and non-essential health care personnel; except for certain compassionate care situations such as an end of life situation, until further notice.

     

    Recognizing the difficulty of this situation, Governor Mills urges Maine people to find other ways to show older people or those with chronic conditions their love such as by calling them on the phone; writing them, emailing them, using Skype or FaceTime.

     

    1. All events with 50 or more people be postponed and that all gatherings of more than 10 that include individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness, such as seniors, be postponed until further notice.

     

    These recommendations significantly enhance the previous social distancing recommendations offered by Governor Mills. Social distancing is one of the most effective methods to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

    Governor Janet Mills has also taken strong steps to protect Maine workers and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. She has requested that the Small Business Administration (SBA) provide economic support loans to Maine small businesses in order to help them overcome any temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19. She has also submitted emergency legislation, sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Sara Gideon, that temporarily expands eligibility for unemployment insurance to individuals whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19.

     

    Governor Mills has also directed the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to examine additional ways that the State can support Maine’s small businesses, including working with the Finance Authority of Maine and other potential lending partners. Her Administration is also working around the clock to prepare emergency legislation and enact a budget that helps response to the issues presented by COVID-19 with the goal on minimizing its impact on Maine people and reducing its spread.

     

    These new steps from the Governor build on the work done by the Mills Administration to prepare for and respond to COVID-19, including:

     

    • Convening a Coronavirus Response Team, led by Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah and comprised of key individuals in the Mills Administration, to coordinate State government’s response across departments and local agencies and health authorities.

     

    • Declaring a health insurance emergency to require health insurance carriers providing health care coverage in Maine’s commercial market to cover costs related to coronavirus testing and increases access to care.

     

    • Directing the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to issue emergency rules to ensure MaineCare does not charge copays for office visits and prescription drugs that may be needed for COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment, and to allow for a prescription refill of up to 90 days so people have to make fewer visits to pharmacies.

     

    • Distributing personal protective equipment to first responders and health care professionals across Maine as it becomes available.

     

    • Temporarily suspending non-essential, out-of-state travel for all State employees and reviewing leave policies and telecommuting options.

     

    • Applying for and receiving a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools the ability to provide meals offsite to students, if the school or community currently has, or qualifies for, a USDA Summer Food Service Program.

     

    • Requesting that the Small Business Administration (SBA) provide economic support loans to Maine small businesses in order to help them overcome any temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19.

     

    • Submitting emergency legislation, sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Sara Gideon, that temporarily expands eligibility for unemployment insurance to individuals whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19.

     

    • Launching a 211 option for Mainers to get answers to questions about COVID-19 at any time. This service is available by dialing 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211, or emailing info@211maine.org.

     

    For more information on Maine’s response to COVID-19 and updated testing results, visit the Maine CDC website. Additionally, Maine CDC and 211 Maine have launched a new option for Mainers to get answers to questions about COVID-19 at any time. This service is available by dialing 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211, or emailing info@211maine.org.

     

    The best thing that Maine people can do to protect their health is to take the same preventive measures that avoid catching a cold: Wash your hands often for 20 seconds. Cover coughs and sneezes. Stay home if you are sick. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, shortness of breath, and lower respiratory distress. Call ahead to a health care professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness. Health care providers will make the initial determination on whether COVID-19 testing is advisable. As appropriate, health providers will take samples and submit them to Maine CDC.

  • Technicians at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital vote overwhelmingly to authorize a strike

    March 6, 2020

    The technicians at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital (NLMC) have authorized their union bargaining team to call a strike when necessary, according to the Maine State Nurses Association, the union that represents both these employees and the registered nurses at the hospital.

    The technicians—including Cardio Pulmonary, Radiology, Laboratory and Operating Room employees, have been working to reach a first contract agreement with their employer for over two years. The outstanding issues revolve around patient care, secure benefits and fair compensation.  

    “Just like the nurses, our first concern is patient care. We formed our union over two years ago to advocate for better staffing and safer conditions in the hospital,” said Cynthia Grindal, a medical lab technician at Maine Coast.

    Respiratory therapist and bargaining team member Dave Evans said, “We are not looking for anything more than what the other unionized Maine Coast employees already have in their contract here at this hospital. We’re not asking for the moon, just a stronger voice for our patients and a little security for ourselves.”

    According to the union bargaining team, resolving the issues at hand will benefit many more people than just those who are currently employed at the hospital.

    “Recruiting and retaining quality technicians at our hospital means giving them reasons to come work here and reasons to stay working here," said CT Technician Sam Winter, another bargaining team member. "For that to happen, we believe that management needs to hear our concerns and meet us half-way. They haven’t come close to ‘half-way’ since we started this process.”

    No date has yet been set for the possible strike. Any potential date will be set by the union bargaining team in consultation with the rank-and-file membership.

    The Maine State Employees Association is the largest union in Maine for Registered Nurses. It is affiliated with National Nurses Organizing Committee and National Nurses United, the largest union of Registered Nurses in the United States.

  • Maine to Begin Testing for COVID-19 at State Lab

    03/05/2020 - AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) announced today that testing for the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) at the state's Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory is expected to begin in the next several days.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) yesterday updated guidelines to expand the criteria for what makes individuals with symptoms of the virus eligible for COVID-19 testing.

    Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Maine has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at this time. As Maine CDC previously reported, one individual who met earlier federal testing criteria tested negative.

    In response to the expansion of federal criteria, more individuals in Maine are being tested. Maine CDC has received new testing equipment, and state lab staff are calibrating it and taking other steps to prepare for testing within the next several days. In the meantime, approximately a dozen samples from individuals in Maine are being sent to the U.S. CDC lab for testing. Results are pending. Maine CDC will inform the public if positive tests are confirmed and will offer regular updates on testing recommendations.

    The number of positive test results will be posted to Maine CDC's coronavirus webpage. The number of requests for testing will increase as the COVID-19 situation continues to rapidly evolve globally and in the United States.

    Moving forward, tests will be conducted at both Maine CDC and U.S. CDC to facilitate prompt results.

    Individuals who exhibit symptoms should contact their health care providers, who will make the initial determination on whether COVID-19 testing is advisable. In cases where it is, medical providers will alert the Maine CDC to coordinate testing. As appropriate, health providers will take samples and submit them to Maine CDC.

    Maine CDC continues comprehensive planning to ensure Maine is ready should the virus affect people here. Governor Janet Mills has convened a Coronavirus Response Team, led by Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah, charged with coordinating State government's response across departments and local agencies and health authorities to the potential spread of COVID-19. Maine CDC remains committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information about the 2019 novel coronavirus to Maine people.

    Please visit the Maine CDC website at www.maine.gov/dhhs/coronavirus.