A parent and a staff member at different South Portland schools have tested positive for the coronavirus, the superintendent said in a letter to families Wednesday.

South Portland Superintendent Ken Kunin said “it was a matter of time” before the school community saw positive tests for coronavirus. Courtesy / South Portland School Department

“We learned yesterday that COVID-19 is in fact impacting people in our community,” South Portland Superintendent Ken Kunin said in the letter. “With about 118 confirmed cases in Maine and 74 in Cumberland County as of noon on March 24, it was a matter of time.

“We learned that a parent and a staff member associated with different schools have tested positive. We are aware of others who are under self-quarantine recommended by medical professionals who represent still different schools.”

South Portland schools have been closed since March 16 because of the outbreak with no plans to reopen until at least April 27. In an interview, Kunin declined to identify which schools the parent and staff member are connected to because it could have the effect of personally identifying them.

He said the district is following daily guidance from public health professionals and taking precautions to be able to continue remote education, provide meals to students and prepare for the eventual re-opening of schools.

In the letter, Kunin also reminded families to practice physical and social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. That means no play dates, small gatherings or birthday parties, he said.

Kunin asked students and parents to contact their principals or school nurses if they or someone in their families have been impacted by COVID-19. The district is trying to keep track of who has been tested, whether people in the school community are connected to someone who has tested positive and whether anyone has been advised by a doctor to self-quarantine, because that information will help in district consultations with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If efforts at following sound public health guidance are successful, we will experience less illness in our community as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” Kunin said.

Of the 142 coronavirus cases confirmed in Maine as of Wednesday, 110 are in Cumberland and York counties. Other school districts in the area, including Cape Elizabeth and Falmouth, have also reported cases in members of their school communities.

Gov. Janet Mills has declared a state of civil emergency across the state and on Tuesday South Portland Mayor Katherine Lewis followed, declaring a five-day state of civil emergency in South Portland that could later be renewed by the City Council.

The proclamation gives the city manager power to issue rules and regulations in response to the outbreak. City Manager Scott Morelli said late Tuesday morning that the city is working on specific regulations, but nothing has been released yet.

Morelli did issue a release Wednesday announcing that he is extending the closure of all City buildings through at least April 13.

While all public schools in Maine are currently closed, officials are reminding parents and students to adhere to the general guidelines from the Maine CDC, including practicing good hand washing, avoiding touching your face, staying home if sick and cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces frequently.

 

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