City government leaders are taking preventative steps and preparing contingency plans as the threat from the new strain of coronavirus grows.

City Manager Tom Luttrell said Monday, March 9, that hygiene stations will be set at each entrance to city hall. The stations will be stocked with masks, hand sanitizer and tissues if someone must come in to City Hall.

A sign is posted on the main door to City Hall encouraging people not to enter if they have a fever or cough and instead call City Hall to see if business can be conducted by telephone.

The city manager said employees have also been informed that if they are ill with flu-like symptoms during this potential COVID-19 virus scare that they will not be docked sick or vacation time.

The city is also discussing having a few employees work remotely from home in the event of an outbreak.

He said out-of-state travel was canceled for city workers until the outbreak in the country ends.

Rockland Fire Chief Chris Whytock also met with the media on Tuesday, outlining the steps the department will take.

Rockland Fire and Emergency Medical Services is meeting weekly with the Maine Center for Disease Control, Maine Emergency Management Agency, Knox County Emergency Management Agency, and Maine Emergency Medical Services to stay on top of the evolving information associated with COVID-19 and its spread/containment, the chief said.

"We have also been in contact with our local hospital and will be meeting with our local emergency medical services directors to make sure all providers are up to date and informed on each other’s activities. All meetings will continue for the foreseeable future," the chief said.

There have been no cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Maine as of March 9.

The virus is spreading to additional states and countries. The death rate from this virus is significantly greater for people 60 years and older and those people with compromised immune systems or chronic illnesses.

The chief said when calls come into the Knox County Regional Communications Center, dispatchers will ask people a series of questions to determine if they might have the virus — such as whether they have a fever or traveled outside the U.S. The chief said one difficulty is that the initial symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to the seasonal flu and some colds.

"We are being flooded with information related to COVID-19 and trying to sort fact from fiction is difficult due to the sheer volume of stories, statements, and opinions across all media outlets. We recommend both the Maine CDC and federal CDC websites for accurate and up to date info. We will continue to provide updated factual information on the City of Rockland’s website rocklandmaine.gov and our official Facebook pages (Rockland Maine Police Department, Rockland Maine Fire & EMS Department, City of Rockland, Maine) Maine will also be standing up 2-1-1 within the next week for anyone with specific questions regarding COVID-19. Just dial 2-1-1 and someone will be available to speak with.

The info provided is direct from the Center for Disease Control and can be viewed online at cdc.gov," the news release from the chief states.

The chief said the department will respond when an ambulance and crew are needed. He said, however, people with mild symptoms should contact their physician first or the emergency department at Pen Bay Medical Center before going to their doctor's office, hospital, or seek an ambulance. Pen Bay also recommended people call in first to avoid spreading the virus.

At a Feb. 27 meeting of the Rockland-based Regional School Unit 13 meeting, Superintendent John McDonald said if the need arises, the district will cancel student trips because of the virus threat.

There are April trips planned for Germany and Poland.

McDonald said if schools were to close, operating classes remotely by computer is not an option because of the lack of access many households have to internet, as well as the schedules of working parents.

The superintendent said the district ordered two devices that are the size of backpacks that can disinfect an entire school in one evening with non-toxic ingredients. This equipment can also be used to disinfect buses quickly, the superintendent said.

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