MDI Biological Laboratory
General News

Update April 15: State of emergency is the right approach

  • April 15, 2020

April 15, 2020
Hannover, Germany

Good morning MDIBL,

Yesterday Governor Mills extended the state of emergency for another four weeks. It is wonderful to have her as governor during these difficult times. She is clear, pragmatic, and cautious. She works closely together with her advisors and it is a pleasure to watch her interactions with her staff.  She is listening to the experts and is not afraid to make serious decisions. Declaring a state of emergency is one of these difficult decisions.

State of emergency feels like an emergency. And looking at the news from the epicenters of the disease, it is an emergency. Fortunately, in Maine, it is different when we look around us.  Presently, Maine is still safe. We only have a few known cases of infection. We definitely have very low numbers of sick people in the Northeast in comparison with the epicenters. We have enough beds for more COVID-19 patients – including enough beds in ICU and ventilators to treat many more patients if necessary. State of emergency for us means a state of precaution and by that we will hopefully escape a true state of emergency in Maine. 

Declaring a state of emergency means that we are cautious, and rightly so. The governor has ordered emergency hospitals set-up in Portland and Bangor. We have done the same here in Hannover. At the same time, we hope that we will never have to use these emergency hospital beds. How sure can we be that we will not have a wave of patients in Maine?  Everybody looks at curves these days and Dr. Nirav Shah has very aptly compared COVID-19 predictions to the weather forecast. Mostly I believe what the weather forecast tells me. For COVID-19 the predictions are very clear: if we stick to our policy of precaution and prevention, we will not get caught in the rainstorm! 

The numbers of infected people are notoriously unreliable because they depend on how many people are tested. When the testing in Bangor goes up in a nursing home affected with the virus it is obvious that the general numbers will increase. However, this does not necessarily mean that we have public transmission in Bangor. Presently, our precautions are working. In Germany and in Maine the number of patients recovering from the disease is increasing and the numbers of newly infected patients from one day to the next are decreasing. We know that when one patient is infecting less than one other person the epidemic will begin to dry out.  In Germany yesterday the number was 1:1.2 — we are almost there. 

But this doesn’t mean that the virus has disappeared. Like a wildfire, there will be small outbreaks in the future. We can deal with that by acting quickly and stomping out these small fires.

What does it mean for MDIBL? Our policy has two goals:
1)     We want to prevent spreading the virus.
2).    We want to protect each and every individual on campus from contracting the virus and becoming sick.

We have discussed our rules and regulations a lot and we have taken into account both the science and people’s anxiety levels and I think we are pretty effective. We have had no cases at MDIBL so far!

We are adjusting our policies and discussing amongst senior staff every day. Our rules and recommendations follow recommendations from the CDC and other federal and state authorities – the safety of our employees is our priority. Following these rules will keep us protected and healthy.  State of emergency is a state of precaution for us. As the governor said:  Stick with us. We will survive.

Stay safe.