Masks required at Maine day cares; island cases cause worry

UNITY, Maine (AP) — Staff and children at Maine’s day care facilities must now wear masks per new guidelines from the state.

The guidelines require mask use for children ages 5 and older and recommend it for those 2 through 4, WCSH-TV reported. The new rules went into effect on Monday.

The Maine Office of Child and Family Services said in a statement that the new guidance “has been provided knowing that it’s likely to evolve as our understanding of the virus evolves and as circumstances change.”

The new rules follow broad face-covering requirements around the state, including at schools.

In other news related to the pandemic in Maine:

BAR HARBOR VISITORS

Physicians at Mount Desert Island Hospital told the Portland Press Herald they believe at least 35 out-of-state residents carrying the virus have been on the island this summer. Those visitors could have spread the disease in the community, the paper reported.

Dr. Julius Krevans Jr., the hospital’s chair of infection prevention, said Maine “by virtue of both its geography and excellent state leadership, has done very well so far, but this situation represents a clear and present danger that should be addressed.”

Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Nirav Shah said the state is in touch with the hospital to help prevent the spread of the virus.

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VACCINE PREP

Shah said the state isn’t waiting for the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine to make plans about how to get it to residents. He said Maine CDC is working with healthcare providers are other stakeholders to develop a plan to get the vaccine to as many Mainers as possible once it becomes available.

Planning to deliver the vaccine will mean determining how to get it to people as well as who will need to get it first and when they should get it, Shah said. He said residents should get in touch with their primary care providers in advance of the approval of the vaccine.

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NEW CASES

Maine has had more than 3,900 reported cases of the virus and more than 120 deaths. Public health authorities reported more than a dozen new cases so far this week.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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ONLINE COLLEGE

A college in Maine that focuses on environmental studies and sustainability said it plans to permanently transition to a hybrid model of in-person and online learning.

Unity College announced the move by its board of trustees on Monday. The college said the board also authorized leadership to consider selling the main campus in Unity.

College president Melik Peter Khoury said the change is “a major stride toward Unity College’s mission to provide a more diverse, just, equitable, and sustainable education.” The college said the new model will allow students to continue their education during unforeseen events, such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Khoury said the financial impact of the pandemic expedited the plan to move to a hybrid model, but he added the change is “not simply a reaction to the pandemic.” He said eliminating the need for a centralized campus will allow the college to hold in-person and online courses in multiple locations.

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PORTLAND SCHOOLS

The superintendent of schools in Maine’s largest city is recommending a hybrid learning model of in-person and online instruction to begin the school year.

Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana wants elementary school students to attend school in-person two days per week for the start of the school year, the Portland Press Herald reported. The goal would be to bring them back to school five days per week by the middle of October.

Under Botana’s plan, middle school students and high school freshmen would attend in-person classes two days a week. Older high school students would mostly take classes remote.

Students throughout the district will also have the option of remote-only education this year.

The plan was slated to go before the Board of Public Education on Tuesday.

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