Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on April 2, 2020, and has been updated.
The first Mainer suspected of contracting COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, returned from a trip to Italy on March 6 with symptoms of a cold. By then, more than 100,000 people had been infected by the coronavirus worldwide, COVID-19 had claimed the lives of 14 people in Washington alone and more and more states were reporting cases. It was no secret that the virus would soon cross into Maine’s borders.
The first case of COVID-19, in the traveler who had recently visited Italy, was confirmed six days later. Day by day, Gov. Janet Mills, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Nirav Shah and local officials took action to limit the spread of the virus in Maine and secure supplies to protect its residents.
As the state began to shut down, classroom instruction moved online and officials limited gatherings in public spaces and businesses, Mainers started to feel the effects of the pandemic hit home. From March 15-21, unemployment claims skyrocketed, quadrupling the number of claims filed during the worst week of the Great Recession in 2009.
Tensions over mask mandates, quarantine rules and business closures persisted among the public and in the Legislature as COVID-19 continued to spread and hundreds of Mainers died.
Winter brought mixed news. The number of new daily cases rose rapidly from the end of October to mid-January, with Maine reporting a record-high 824 cases on Jan. 13. But, the state also began vaccinating residents, with the first Mainer — a nurse at Maine Medical Center — receiving a dose on Dec. 15. By April 16, Maine’s vaccination rate was the best in the country, according to a Bloomberg News tracker. Thirty-one percent of the state’s population was fully vaccinated at that point.
Trace these happenings — and other key events in the outbreak of the coronavirus in Maine — using The Maine Monitor’s interactive, multimedia timeline. See how officials have responded to the crisis and how the public has been impacted each day.
To use this tool, click on the left and right arrows to navigate the slides chronologically or scroll through the timeline at the bottom to jump straight to a specific event.