MDI Biological Laboratory
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March 16 update from MDI Biological Laboratory President

  • March 16, 2020

MDI Biological Laboratory President, Hermann Haller, M.D., is currently self-isolating for 14 days after arriving from Germany last week. As a physician scientist, he has experience treating patients with Coronavirus infections, is serving on several taskforces for COVID-19 and is consulting (virtually) with medical professionals on MDI and across the globe. Dr. Haller has been providing leadership and guidance during this time of uncertainty and worry, and we wanted to share some of his thoughts with you.*  

If you have a particular question for Dr. Haller about COVID-19/Coronavirus, you can email him at

*Note: the following statements do not constitute medical advice. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider for specific advice.

March 16, 2020

It is currently a beautiful day on Mount Desert Island, but one can see the gathering storm of COVID-19. I tend to think of it as though I am looking at a weather map:

  • Where are the centers of outbreaks? 
  • How are the numbers in the different states developing?
  • How much worse will it get?
  • How many cases will we have here in Maine?

Mainers are used to bad weather, and they understand better than most the importance of being prepared. Right now here in Maine and elsewhere across the country, we are all preparing for an approaching storm. 

We all know by now the essential rules of good hygiene: social distancing, wash your hands, avoid touching your face, sneeze into your elbow (or even better do not sneeze at all). Appropriate hygiene is an integral part of our storm preparations, even at home. You should routinely wipe down door handles, counter tops, and remote controls and other frequently used items. Clean = better protection.

However, there are still many questions. Avoid meetings in large groups. What exactly is a large group? Obviously this includes public areas such as movie theaters, sports stadiums or conferences – events that have been cancelled across the country and the world. But how many people together is too many?  An often-cited number early on was 25, but more recently officials have been using the number 10. There is no official definition. I would suggest avoiding all group meetings if possible and avoid any close contact.

What exactly is close contact? It is defined as being with within approximately 6 feet of someone for a prolonged period of time. What is a prolonged period of time? Presently it is 15 minutes by most definitions. That includes healthcare waiting areas, coworkers and even those you are living with.

What about shopping centers? You might not have a lot of contact with other people at Walmart at 7 p.m., but if you must go to the store for essentials, stick to the rules of good hygiene and avoid close contact. This is critical during the next few weeks as many may be positive for the virus without knowing it.

All of this may seem complicated or overwhelming. However, it really is just common sense in times of infection. Despite all the hype around us we should stay calm and use common sense.  

In the coming days the question of testing will become important. Who should be tested? 

  • If you are asymptomatic, you do not need to be tested. Simply stick to the rules and prevent possible spread of the virus.
  • If you have been exposed by traveling or had close contact with a patient you should self-quarantine for 14 days, like me. 
  • If you have clinical symptoms of fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing, contact your healthcare provider. Ultimately the decision for testing lies with your doctor. 

Call your health professional first — they will screen you over the phone and, depending on the severity of your symptoms, recommend testing. With a positive test and no worsening of clinical symptoms you stay at home, rest and recover. If you develop more serious symptoms such as shortness of breath or high fever, your doctor may recommend that you come to the hospital.  Bottom line: Stay in contact with your doctor!

Stay calm and protect yourself.