ORONO, Maine (AP) — A rural Maine county violated the state's open meeting law when it adopted a resolution that misled the public about the coronavirus pandemic, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine said Wednesday.
The Piscataquis County Commission's resolution objected to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ pandemic executive orders. Public health authorities in the state, including Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah, have characterized the statement as full of errors about the pandemic.
The resolution made a discredited claim that face coverings cause pneumonia and respiratory disease, causing "far worse devastation to the populace than the virus itself." The ACLU of Maine said the resolution was also adopted in secret, which is against state rules.
“The Piscataquis County Commissioners deliberately violated the Maine Freedom of Access Act and struck at the core value of public oversight of government action when they passed a resolution in secret, silenced critical voices, and blocked remote attendees from hearing the proceedings,” ACLU of Maine legal director Emma Bond said.
A request for comment was left with The Piscataquis County Commission.
In other news related to the pandemic in Maine:
The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 5.86%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 7.84% on Jan. 5 to 5.86% on Jan. 19.
Public health authorities in the state have reported more than 34,000 cases and 530 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Students at the University of Maine have created a website that teachers can use to plan outdoor lessons as health authorities encourage more outdoor activities.
The website is the product of students at UMaine's outdoor leadership program, and it's geared at teachers of K-12 students. The website includes videos, quizzes, slideshows and other resources about topics such as mountain biking, wilderness survival and outdoor ethics, university officials said.
The project was developed during the fall 2019 and 2020 semesters, organizers said. The plan is for students in UMaine's outdoor leadership program to add to it in future years.
Health authorities have promoted socially distanced outdoor activities throughout the pandemic to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Gov. Janet Mills has extended Maine's State of Civil Emergency through Feb. 17. The declaration, extended 11 times by Mills, “allows Maine to deploy all available tools to respond to and contain COVID-19,” her office said.
The University of Maine said its men's basketball team is on a pause due to two presumptive positive coronavirus tests among personnel.
“Members of the men’s basketball team deemed to be close contacts are in quarantine. Contact tracing and additional testing are underway,” UMaine spokesperson Dan Demeritt said.