As things continue to rapidly evolve with the coronavirus (COVID-19), Mayor Snyder, City Council members, and City Manager Jon Jennings held a press conference on Friday to provide the public and media with the latest information related to the number of preventative measures the City has put in place to help prevent any spread of the virus in our community.
“I want to assure our community that your City Council, and the City of Portland’s staff of professionals is here, focusing on measures that are both prudent and aggressively cautious in the interest of public safety and well being,” said Mayor Kate Snyder. “If we look at data, it tells us that prevention works. When interaction is severely limited, the spread of this virus slows. Right now it is our obligation to do what we can to slow the spread, and thus the impacts of this virus, and this requires social distancing.”
“Please know we are taking this pandemic very seriously, and all our plans are made in line with best public health practices and the goal of protecting and keeping our staff and the public healthy and safe, which is necessary in order to continue to provide services to the public,” said City Manager Jon Jennings.
During the press conference, City Manager Jennings announced that the additional presumptive positive case that was identified by the Maine CDC on Friday, March 13 is a City employee who works at one of our India Street health clinics.
Jenning said, “as soon as we learned of this, we took immediate steps to ensure the health and safety of employees who need to be quarantined and any patients that have recently visited the facility. We are working in conjunction with the Maine CDC to follow all necessary steps.”
The City has closed the India Street Health Clinic for 14 days in order to be aggressively cautious, and because its staff needs to self-quarantine. The MaineCDC did not require the clinic to close for health reasons, rather the City made the decision because it has no other staff to keep it operational. During this time, any patients that have an urgent need with regard to an STD or viral hepatitis should contact your primary care provider or seek assistance at an urgent care or emergency department.
Jennings added, “we will remain in contact with the employee as they continue to deal with their case and wish them a full and speedy recovery. Because there are public health staff who work at India Street and in City Hall, we have asked those staff in contact with the affected individual to self-quarantine.”
In light of all this, the City has decided to close City Hall and City buildings to all external visitors for the next two weeks. Additionally, the City is closing City Hall only to non-essential staff beginning Monday, March 16 for one week while the City performs a deep cleaning of the building. Those who can work from home will do so. The City will reassess the two week closure to visitors and may make changes should new developments occur.
These following is the list of preventive measures the City has put into place at this time:
Increased cleaning in our facilities and posted educational materials related to the virus. We also provided translated materials for those in our community whose first language is not english;
Suspended all employee work travel;
Mandated that employees who are sick must stay home;
Visitors have been restricted from the Barron Center, our long-term care and rehabilitation facility. Additionally, employees are being screened before each shift;
Protocols in place at shelters -- sharing educational information, encouraging good hand washing, masks available for those with coughs or sneezing, hand sanitizer available, and increased cleaning;
At Oxford Street, we have instituted head to toe sleeping in order to increase the space between guests, and made quarantine space should we need it. Quarantine space has also been arranged at the Family Shelter should it be necessary;
We have closed our event facilities at Merrill Auditorium, Portland Expo, and Ocean Gateway for 30 Days in order to reduce the number of large gatherings;
We have cancelled all Public Meetings for 30 Days, again to limit gatherings and reduce risk;
We are encouraging other community organizations and companies to cancel and postpone its public gatherings per Governor Mill’s announcement that non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 250 people should not be held at this time;
Cruise ships will not be allowed to enter Portland during April. This affects only two ships that were scheduled during that time. Additional cancellations may be forthcoming.
The City continues to encourage the public to stay up to date on the latest information from the Maine CDC. The City is posting information related to COVID-19 resources on a dedicated page at https://www.portlandmaine.gov/COVID19.