ELLSWORTH — The week before a planned early semester ending on Nov. 25, Maine Maritime Academy has switched to remote learning until then due to a rise in positive COVID-19 cases on the Castine campus.
As of Nov. 14, there were 15 active cases on campus, down from 19. Fully remote learning began Nov. 16 with most classes switching on Nov. 11.
“Our decision to pivot now is due to an abundance of caution about potential impact upon our campus and the local community,” MMA President William Brennan said in announcing the change. Students will take final exams remotely, and maybe even when they return in the new year. The spring semester begins Jan. 4.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was reporting 177 cumulative cases of COVID-19 in Hancock County as of Tuesday. At KidsPeace in Ellsworth, positive cases have risen to 20 from an initial three cases 10 days ago. And, with a small outbreak of three cases among Downeast Transportation staff, the bus service has been on hiatus since Nov. 8, with plans to resume operations on Nov. 23.
An individual associated with the Mountain View School also has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Nov. 15 letter from Regional School Unit 24 Superintendent Michael Eastman.
According to the letter, the individual who tested positive, along with nine staff members and 19 students, were to begin quarantining in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Renys in Ellsworth was closed Sunday through Tuesday “due to an abundance of caution to assess a potential positive employee case,” according to a company social media post. Renys officials said the employee was not in close contact with coworkers or customers.
And in Gouldsboro, the town office is temporarily closed as staff there await test results.
Cases continue to surge across Maine — relative to the low numbers the state saw during earlier pandemic months — and while news of successful vaccines may be taking center stage, distribution is a serious concern, Maine CDC Executive Director Nirav Shah said Monday.
“The devil is in the details, and that’s what we’re seeing,” Shah said, describing a “three-legged stool” for successful inoculation with the vaccine: having the vaccine, being able to vaccinate the public and having the public confident in the vaccine. “If any leg of the stool goes wobbly, there goes the whole edifice.”
Maine has $800,000 in federal money earmarked for vaccine distribution, but Shah said more is needed.
Cases continue to rise across Maine, with new cases numbering well over 100 each day. Sixty-nine people — “People with friends, families, communities,” Shah noted — are currently hospitalized, with 68 in the intensive care unit and seven people on ventilators.
“Not everything can be measured when it comes to COVID-19,” Shah said, highlighting “the anguish, the concern, the fear” that accompanies COVID-19, and having a family member stricken with the virus.
Shah also said that between Saturday, Nov. 14, and Monday, Nov. 16, the Maine CDC opened up 14 investigations into outbreaks occurring across the state.
“There is a direct link between community transmission, gatherings in households and outbreaks,” he said. “The trend may continue.” Shah also said things will likely get worse, with “several hundred” daily cases possible in the next few weeks.