AUGUSTA – The Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) said May 28 that the State Emergency Operations Center, at MEMA in Augusta, has temporarily moved to fully virtual operations today after seven employees who worked at the site exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 overnight.
“MEMA and Maine CDC operations have not been disrupted,” according to a news release. “MEMA and Maine CDC have exercised continuity of operations plans for situations of this nature. The shift to a virtual operations center ensured no disruption in Maine's ongoing COVID-19 response.”
Three MEMA employees, two Maine CDC employees and two National Guard members reported May 28 that they had experienced COVID-19 symptoms overnight, and called in sick.
The MEMA offices are co-located in a larger building at 45 Commerce Drive with the Maine Department of Public Safety and the Maine Department of Labor.
The employees are being tested for COVID-19 and are being advised and monitored by Maine CDC. Their pending test results are expected within 24 hours.
Maine CDC is also identifying people who had close contact with symptomatic employees and is advising them on appropriate precautions, including whether testing is necessary.
MEMA Director Peter Rogers and Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav D. Shah, who regularly work out of MEMA's office in Augusta, have not been in close contact with the employees, the release said.
“Additionally, Governor Janet Mills, who participated in yesterday's media briefing which occurs at MEMA, has also not been in close contact with any of the individuals,” the release said.
Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Heather Johnson, who have participated in recent press briefings, also have not been in close contact with any of the affected individuals.
In the meantime, Director Rogers and Dr. Shah jointly decided to move the SEOC to fully virtual operations, meaning no employees will be present in the space today, out of an abundance of caution.
As a result, both are working remotely today.
“At the outset of the pandemic, MEMA implemented safety protocols at the SEOC to help protect against the spread of the virus, including limiting the number of employees working in the SEOC, requiring employees to maintain six feet of distance whenever possible, enhancing cleaning efforts within the office, and requiring temperature checks and hand sanitation for all individuals entering the SEOC,” the release said.
Given the office separations and limited interaction, Maine CDC, “believes at this time that there have not been close contacts with employees of these other departments,” the release said. “Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should be taken seriously regardless of the setting, including maintaining physical distance, staying home if you're not feeling well, and speaking to your health care provider if you experience symptoms consistent with COVID-19, such as shortness of breath, fever, and cough.”
As a result of today's shift to a virtual command center, today's daily media briefing will be held via Zoom. The briefing is scheduled for 2 p.m.