Halloween is usually one of the most fun times of the year. From the trick-or-treating to the costume parties, it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t enjoy Halloween. This year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, these beloved festive traditions were either restricted or not allowed to take place. Social distancing requirements, mask mandates and general caution and fear from the public made it hard to have a normal Halloween in 2020. Many residents in the state practiced social distancing on a major holiday that usually draws large crowds, but it is impossible to know if everyone remained vigilant.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Nov. 8, there were 370 cumulative cases and 74 active cases of COVID-19 in Penobscot County, where the University of Maine is located. There has been a surge in cases throughout the state, with there being 5,419 cumulative cases being reported by the CDC on Oct. 1, and 6,778 a month later on Nov. 1. With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, people were worried that UMaine students wouldn’t adhere to social distancing guidelines. It is unclear if this recent surge could become worse in the coming days. Holidays like Thanksgiving and Halloween often draw groups of people together, and it appears this will be the case even in the midst of a global pandemic.
It seems as if a number of students may have gathered in small groups against the advice of the CDC and the university. There could be an uptick in cases due to a lack of caution from others but it is impossible to know right now. On Thursday, Nov. 5, President Joan Ferrini-Mundy shared a statement with the UMaine community through an email.
“This week, five UMaine employees have tested positive for COVID-19. All are administrative staff who work in Facilities Management offices on campus in Orono. They are experiencing minor symptoms, isolating at home and doing well. UMaine and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention are involved in supporting all the employees,” Ferrini-Mundy stated.
She also stated that two off-campus students also tested positive, bringing the number of students in quarantine to three.
Current statistics for Maine show that the state is facing a total of 6,417 cumulative confirmed cases as of Nov. 5 and 843 probable cases. Rapid testing is also now available. The Portland Press Herald reported on Oct. 29 that through a partnership with Walgreens, rapid tests are now available at 65 pharmacy locations throughout Maine that are able to produce results within 15 minutes.
Gov. Janet Mills has issued a new and updated mask mandate for all businesses in the state, amid the uptick in cases. Mainers will now be required to wear a face covering anywhere in public, regardless of their ability to maintain social distancing. Although the state is doing better than most in keeping the virus at bay, it can’t hurt to be too careful.
“We have recorded yet another day of record high case numbers. This deadly and dangerous virus is spreading all across our state,” Mills said. “Protect your family. Protect a health care worker. Protect the elderly. Wear your face covering. Save lives. It is that simple.”
The rest of UMaine’s fall semester will likely be challenging. UMaine continues to test students and uphold restrictions on campus. According to UMaine, it is critical that all students adhere to the university’s policies and show up to their testing dates. With the holidays coming up, it is important that everyone heeds the advice from Governor Mills. Remember to continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask and avoid large groups and gatherings.