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Maine secures 20,000-plus devices for pandemic home learning

Associated Press By Associated Press | 2 months ago

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Department of Education secured internet access and devices for all of the more than 20,000 students who needed them to continue their learning from home, Gov. Janet Mills and Education Commissioner Pender Makin announced Friday.

The effort was launched to help students who didn’t have the tools to participate in online learning after the suspension of classroom-based instruction because of the pandemic.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that Maine’s teachers, and all students, have the tools they need to stay connected during these unprecedented times,” Mills said in a statement.

The Department of Education obtained nearly 14,500 service contracts through three different service providers, nearly all of which were for WiFi-enabled Samsung Galaxy tablets that can be used as learning tools and hotspots. Another 7,450 Chromebooks were obtained for those who already had internet access but lacked a device, the department said.

It was a combined effort of the Department of Education, Department of Administrative and Financial Services, ConnectME, and business and philanthropic entities.

Makin said the pandemic drew attention to “extreme inequities” during the educational disruption. “The emergency provision of connectivity to all students allows for educational continuity,” she said.

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THE NUMBERS

Another 38 people tested positive for the new coronavirus but there were no deaths in the previous 24 hours, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported Friday.

The total number of deaths stood at 69, and total confirmed cases increased to 1,603, officials said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

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TESTING ACCURACY

The Maine Center for Disease Control says it’s analyzing the accuracy of a rapid-fire test manufactured by Abbott Laboratories in Scarborough that can detect COVID-19 within minutes.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said it’s his understanding that a positive test result “can be taken to the bank” but that negative results may not be as accurate.

“We wanted to see for ourselves what the experience has been in Maine, what the accuracy is for that test,” Shah said.

The Abbott Laboratories test is coming under scrutiny after New York University epidemiologists questioned its accuracy compared to other tests.

The Chicago-based company defended the accuracy of the tests. And an Abbott spokeswoman told the Portland Press Herald that the company plans to increase manufacturing capability to 2 million tests a month by June.

The Maine CDC has received 345 of the Abbott tests. Additional tests were redirected by the federal government to areas of the country with more severe COVID-19 outbreaks.

Nonetheless, Maine is ramping up its testing capacity, doubling its testing within the past week, and adding another 5,000 tests per week through a partnership with Idexx.

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MORE CLOSINGS

The Bangor State Fair has become the latest summer attraction to be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The cancellations follow the unveiling of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ four-stage plan to ease coronavirus-related restrictions, which includes a 50-person limit for public gatherings from June through August.

The fair was scheduled to run from July 30 to Aug. 8.

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