1. State ‘Stay Healthy at Home’ directive: What does it change Downeast?

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Governor Janet Mills held a press conference yesterday announcing new, stricter measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Maine. Called the “Stay Healthy at Home” directive, the measure urges Mainers to self-isolate, extends the prohibition on classroom education until May 1, and puts specific headcount limitations on essential retail establishments like grocery stores and gas stations.

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  2. Schools working overtime to provide learning, food, and normalcy — from a distance

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Teacher Caitlyn Roy reported to work on Friday, March 13 expecting a day of professional development workshops. Instead, she and her fellow teachers were told to prepare 15 days worth of lesson plans, and quickly.

    “We still didn’t know if [a shutdown] was happening, or when,” said Roy, who together with Kelly Woodward teaches fifth grade at Rose M. Gaffney Elementary (RMG) in Machias. “We had to create lesson plans for math, but we didn’t know what the lessons would be about, so we had to make plans that were fill-in-the-blank.”

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  3. 400 acres around Vining Lake acquired by Downeast Coastal Conservancy

    by Nancy Beal

    Several hundred acres surrounding a prime brook trout habitat that is also a popular ice fishing lake in the town of Cooper will be preserved for the people of Washington County and beyond through the sale last month to the Downeast Coastal Conservancy (DCC), the Sunrise County’s foremost land trust headquartered in Machias. DCC took title to the acreage around Vining Lake on March 12 from a couple who wanted the area to remain undeveloped and available to the public in perpetuity for low-impact recreational use.

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  4. Area residents weigh in on mounting coronavirus crisis

    by Ruth Leubecker

    While Washington County remains free of confirmed cases of coronavirus, the average person appears to be realistically appraising the inevitable.

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  5. ‘Nimble’ agencies ramp to meet increasing needs Downeast

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    In February, Washington County reported the highest level of unemployment of any county in Maine, registering 7.7 percent and up from 6.4 percent in 2019, according to the Maine Department of Labor. That number does not include fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic which began to close area businesses in mid-March.

    As the economic impacts of COVID-19 closures hit home, Community Caring Collaborative (CCC) Director Charley Martin-Berry said Washington County agencies are ramping to help people struggling every day to make ends meet.

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  6. Hanscom awarded bid for DCF demolition

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Representative Will Tuell (R-E. Machias) Sunday announced that Maine Department of Corrections has awarded a bid for demolition and abatement of the Downeast Correctional Facility (DCF) to local contractor Hanscom Construction.

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  7. In changing times, East Machias selectboard broadcasts meeting online

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Video can be watched here: https://www.facebook.com/eastmachias/videos/747019195704104/

    The East Machias Board of Selectmen held a meeting on Thursday, March 26 and streamed the proceeding so that residents could watch from a safe distance. The state has prohibited all gatherings of 10 or more people and strongly urged everyone to avoid non-essential gatherings of any size to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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  8. Without ICU, DECH prepares response to COVID-19

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Though no cases of COVID-19 have yet been detected in Washington County, Down East Community Hospital in Machias has implemented plans to respond.

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  9. Jonesport selectmen go to the video

    by Nancy Beal

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  10. Help for fishermen affected by the pandemic

    by Nancy Beal

    Ordinarily around 6 a.m. this time of year, those living near the coast would begin to hear boat engines come to life, as lobstermen came out of their winter cocoons and began setting and hauling their traps. Not this spring.

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  11. JBHS, JES board vote on employee hires, budget

    by Nancy Beal

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  12. Machias scavenger hunt set to repeat April 4-5

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Ben Bunker said he came up with the idea for a driving scavenger hunt as a way to draw families out of their houses during this time of social distancing.
    “I’ve got a little extra time, and I thought, ‘This won’t take much to put together, and it’s something good for the kids,’” said Bunker, sales manager at Whitney TriTown Marine in Machias.

    He reached out to area businesses, and the response was overwhelming. More than 30 agreed to participate, so Bunker is repeating the event this coming weekend, April 4-5.

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  13. AC Inc. open for business, ‘It’s important to be here’

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Fourth-generation Beals business A.C. Inc. is open and will continue to operate in the coming weeks, according to owner Albert Carver. As a seafood buyer and wholesaler, A.C. Inc. is deemed an essential service and will continue operations during a two-week state mandate that shuttered non-essential retail establishments on March 24.

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  14. Tuesday update: Maine active COVID-19 count climbs to 118

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention today announced active COVID-19 counts have risen to 118, and 11-case increase over the day prior. Seven people have recovered from the illness, making Maine’s total known cases 125 since it was first detected here on March 12.

     Cumberland County remains the most affected, with a total of 74 active cases, and five recoveries.

     No cases have yet been detected in Washington County, though experts say it is likely here.

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  15. Geocaching, story trails, and scavenger hunts: local conservancy offers outdoor fun for ‘uncertain times’

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    In response to the coronavirus pandemic, a local land conservancy is spreading the word that schools, libraries, and restaurants may be closed, but nature is not.

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  16. DEI’s ‘gold’ mussel could open national markets to Downeast aquaculture

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    You walk into an upscale eatery and order mussels dressed in garlic almond butter. A bowl of steamy shellfish comes to your table, but first, they could have come from anywhere in the world: Spain, New Zealand, Chile or, most likely, eastern Canada.

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  17. PRSWDD’s fate on the bubble as Columbia decides to stay or leave; Jonesport, Columbia Falls question tonnage

    by Nancy Beal

    There has been no overt movement on the year-long attempt of Jonesport and Columbia Falls to leave the Pleasant River Solid Waste Disposal District (PRSWDD) in recent weeks. The arena has moved from the board room to behind the closed doors of lawyers hired by each side to represent their interests.

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  18. DECH recognized for third year as standout in Donate Life

    by Ruth Leubecker

    “When I came here to work, Sue Dorr was the liaison for the New England Organ Bank,” says Donna Renshaw, operating room nurse at Down East Community Hospital. “Every death at the hospital needed to be reported to the organ bank.”

    Twenty-five-plus years later, the organ bank is now New England Donor Services. Sue Dorr has long retired, Renshaw has assumed her role as liaison, and the Machias hospital has been recognized nationally as a topflight winner in promoting organ donation.

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  19. Wild salmon seeding efforts rely on innovation, collaboration

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    It’s a cold winter morning, and three scientists are in a pickup truck, bouncing their way over miles of frozen blueberry barrens. They stop next to a shuttered cabin and prepare for work, donning insulated waders and hoisting backpacks. Once they’ve loaded their sled with gear they set off, carrying 30,000 eggs toward the Pleasant River.

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  20. Machias talks PD move, CDBG grant

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Members of the Machias selectboard spoke with Machias Police Chief Todd Hand at their regular bi-monthly meeting held Wednesday, March 11. Hand walked the board through building modifications that would make the Machias Telebusiness Center into a suitable new police department.

    Chairman Joshua Rolfe said the board is largely in favor of moving the police department into the more modern facility, located on Stackpole Road, but has not taken a formal vote on the matter.

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  21. EAC’s Youth Art Exhibition to open online

    Despite widespread COVID-19 closures, Eastport Arts Center’s Washington Street Gallery will nevertheless celebrate Youth Art Month with its 6th annual exhibition of young artists’ works. The art has been photographed by Robin Farrin, a frequent documenter of EAC events, and is being compiled as an online exhibition on the center’s site so that all can enjoy.

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  22. Moosabec area mostly closed for business

    by Nancy Beal

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  23. Maine CDC: ‘No one should be waiting to prepare’

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    As of Monday, no cases of coronavirus have been detected within Washington County, a fact which should not stop people from preparing themselves, said Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Executive Director Dr. Nirav Shah.

    "[A lack of cases] could provide folks with a false sense of security," he said.

    Shah warned the CDC fully expects to see new cases develop in counties that have none today, and to see increasing rates of infection in counties with known cases.

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  24. Monday update: 107 cases, ‘Live your life as if you have the disease’

     

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Executive Director Dr. Niravh Shah today announced 107 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maine, an 18-case increase over the day before. Twelve people are currently hospitalized for the virus.

    Maine has conducted 2,791 negative tests.

    For comparison, Shah said there were 89 positive cases across the United States on March 1, and today there are 35,000.

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  25. Sunday update: Maine COVID-19 cases climb to 89, CDC warns ‘no one should be waiting to prepare’ 

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Executive Director Dr. Niravh Shah today held a press conference to discuss coronavirus and announced 89 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maine, a 19-case increase over the day before. Eight of those patients are hospitalized. Yesterday the CDC announced three patients have also recovered.

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  26. Saturday update: Maine COVID-19 cases climb to 70, none yet confirmed in Washington County

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    On Saturday, March 21, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its daily coronavirus case numbers, with a new addition to its chart. Today the CDC site lists 70 cases of confirmed positive COVID-19, a 14-case increase over the day before, and now three cases in the "recovered" column. 

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  27. Friday update: CDC announces 4 new COVID-19 cases, none yet confirmed in Wash. Co.

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    During a daily press conference held Friday, March 20, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Maine has 56 cases of confirmed and presumptive positive COVID-19, a four-case increase over the day before and representing the smallest day-over-day increase this week.

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  28. CDC reports 52 cases of COVID-19 in Maine, 0 in Washington County

    The Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announces its daily findings on COVID-19 every day at noon via their website, https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/airborne/coronavirus.shtml.

    Today's report announced 42 confirmed cases in Maine and 10 presumptive positive cases.

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  29. Major hurdles block reform for disabled public employees

    by Ruth Leubecker

    Many of Maine’s public workers have waited years for earned disability compensation; meantime many exist on limited resources, often from friends and churches.

    “It’s very, very sad. The system has totally let these people down,” says Jerry Conley, an attorney who has made such cases his specialty. “I’ve been doing these cases for 20 years. It’s awful, and has grown worse over the years.”

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  30. Jonesport approves $670k, some elected offices

    by Nancy Beal

    Jonesporters held their annual town meeting March 9, electing the people who will run the town for the next fiscal year (July 2020 through June 2021) and authorizing the money to do it with. In addition to the usual expenditures, approximately 80 persons raised $20,000 as the town’s share of a $66,000 stream crossing grant to rebuild the little overpass on the Kelley Point Road near Route 187 where Stillman’s Creek empties into Sawyer’s Cove, making the total raised $669,398.

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  31. UMM Clippers women’s basketball players receive national honors

    The University of Maine at Machias Clippers women’s basketball team ended a strong season with a bid to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) Basketball National Championship, where they competed against the Villa Maria College Vikings in the quarterfinals on March 9. They were ultimately defeated by the Vikings in a game that ended 69–51.

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  32. Local doctors urge caution in ‘exponentially expanding epidemic’

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Local health care providers are modifying their practices to prepare for an outbreak of COVID-19 in Washington County.

    As of March 16, the Maine Centers for Disease Control reported 17 presumptive and positive cases in Maine, with none yet detected in Washington County.

    Dr. David Rioux, of Machias, said he is “very concerned” about the outbreak, and that his practice is working on a plan to test for the virus without bringing potentially-ill patients into his medical office.

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  33. East Machias canoe sled a work of art

    Hunter Bishop, a 10-year-old who lives in East Machias and attends Elm Street School, recently collaborated with his dad to create a “sled” for a downhill race that was planned as part of the Winter Festival in Machias. Cardboard and duct tape were the approved materials, with design and decoration left up to the builders.  A photo of a canoe seen on a postcard at the Wabanaki Cultural Center in Calais was Hunter’s inspiration.

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  34. Out and About in Columbia

    by Ronie Strout

     

    The Addison Town Meeting was held on Tuesday evening, March 10 at the D.W. Merritt Elementary School. Over 85 folks turned out for the meeting, with 83 voters registered to vote at the meeting.

    The moderator for the evening was Chris Chartrand. Roberta Pinkham and Ronie Strout registered the voters for the night.

    The Addison Town Meeting went well, with 26 articles voted on within 43 minutes. We elected one selectman, Joshua Stubbs, who won with 49 votes. Outgoing selectman Thomas Batson received 24.

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  35. The ultimate lottery

    by V. Paul Reynolds

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  36. The Nature of Phenology: Red-winged blackbirds

    by Hazel Stark

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  37. Maine CDC announces 23 confirmed, 9 presumptive COVID-19 cases

    During its daily update on Tuesday, March 17, Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the state now has 23 confirmed cases if the 2019 novel coronavirus, and nine presumptive positives, bringing the likely known total to 32. Maine discovered its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Thursday, March 12.

    Tests for 1,303 people have come back negative.

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  38. Mills recommends indefinite classroom closures

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    On Maine’s 200th birthday, Sunday, March 15, Governor Janet Mills held a press conference to address the spread of COVID-19 in Maine and said she has declared a civil state of emergency to “unlock access to critical federal funds that will support [Maine’s] efforts.”

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  39. Machias couple emerges from self-quarantine after return from Italy

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    After 16 days in isolation, Ben and Allison Edwards were relieved to learn they tested negative for COVID-19. The couple, who manage Schoppee Farm in Machias, returned from a trip to Europe last month and were advised to self-quarantine for two weeks.

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  40. Washington County Coronavirus updates

    The Machias Valley News Observer will be regularly updating this page with information relating to coronavirus in Washington County, including closures, cancellations, and postponements. If you have any updates to include here, please email them to editor@machiasnews.com.

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  41. Machiasport’s bicentennial fundraiser will support park, tricentennial forest

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

     

    A day of fundraiser festivities planned for Saturday, March 21 will support Machiasport’s plans for several 2020-themed projects, including a park with walking paths, a tricentennial forest, and a playground, among other things. 

     

    On Sunday, March 15, Maine will celebrate its bicentennial, having entered the union as the 23rd state in 1820.

     

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  42. A walk through Machias before statehood

    by Valdine Atwood

    Editor’s note: Follow along on this walk through historic Machias using the maps found on p. 21.

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  43. Bill grapples with drug law reform

    by Ruth Leubecker

    Medical experts and public health advocates convened last week to address upcoming legislation that would relax sentencing guidelines for those possessing drugs.

    LD 1492, An Act to Reform Drug Sentencing Laws, seeks to require prosecutors to prove someone is trafficking or intends to traffick drugs before they can be convicted of it; and it would end some felony charges by raising the threshold for misdemeanor possession charges.

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  44. One year after SJC ruling, enforcement issues plague rockweed industry

    by Sarah Craighead Dedmon

    Questions about enforcement of the Ross v. Acadian Seaplants' decision surround Maine’s rockweed industry, one year after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled rockweed is the exclusive property of Maine’s intertidal landowners.

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  45. Will fish farm propel $12M power line upgrade for Jonesport?

    by Nancy Beal

    In an unusual reversal in the practice of awarding grants, the town of Jonesport has been invited to apply for a $1,000,000 infrastructure grant. That was the word that Bill MacDonald, the new executive director of the Washington County Council of Governments (WCCOG) brought to Jonesport selectmen recently — first via email on the last day of January, then in person on Feb. 5.

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