CASTINE — On Thursday, March 12, Maine officials announced the state’s first presumptive case of COVID-19 coronavirus. By the next day, two more people in the state had tested positive.
By the end of the day Thursday, Maine Maritime Academy announced comprehensive, but flexible plans for dealing with the public health threat.
For the time being, MMA is continuing in-person instruction for all courses on its Castine campus but that could change as the situation evolves, based on advice from the federal and Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The academy is deferring a decision on whether any changes will be required to the planned summer training cruise for first-year and third-year midshipmen aboard the State of Maine. “Though we are discussing options, we do not have changes to cruise plans as of today and continue to plan for cruise accordingly,” the school said on a dedicated virus update page on its website Thursday evening.
While acknowledging that “people are concerned regarding potential health risks associated with cruise travel this summer,” the academy said regimental and health services staff are monitoring the guidance from state and federal authorities and that MMA “will use all available options to ensure that students get the sea time necessary to fulfill requirements for licensing.”
MMA students are required to spend a certain number of days training at sea during their course of study in order to meet the “sea time” requirements for a Coast Guard Merchant Marine license. The training cruise fulfills part of that requirement, but students also acquire some of that necessary sea time participating in the Cadet Shipping program, which places students aboard working commercial vessels during the summer between their second and third years at school. MMA has a meeting scheduled for March 30 to determine what adjustments to the program, if any, may be needed.
On its website MMA said “(a)cademy officials will make decisions regarding 2020 cadet shipping based on guidance and information provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shipping companies and the Maritime Administration.”
MMA has already taken steps to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus on campus.
The regiment, which provides the structure of daily life for most undergraduate students at MMA, has suspended large events including daily muster formations.
All nonessential air travel has been prohibited without the specific approval of academy President William J. Brennan. The school has “strongly discouraged” all air travel by faculty, staff and students. Employees who travel outside Maine will be asked to self-isolate and work at home for 14 days after they return before coming back to campus. Students who travel outside the state will have to “self-isolate,” either at home or in housing designated by the school, for 14 days before returning to campus.
Like virtually every college in the nation, MMA has suspended the spring season for all intercollegiate sports and has also banned all non-academic gatherings of more than 25 people, indefinitely.