NEFAC, Maine Open Government Groups Call for Detailed COVID-19 Information

Maine ‘Out of Step’ with Other New England States By Withholding Town-By-Town Case Data

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 | justin@nefac.org

APRIL 27 LETTER

The New England First Amendment Coalition and several open government advocates recently called for the release of more specific COVID-19 case data in Maine.

Releasing the information, they said, is in line with the practices of other states and would serve the public’s interest.

“The growing consensus and best practice is to make information on the prevalence of COVID-19 available to the public by municipality or zip code, not just at the (less helpful and less informative) county level,” wrote attorney Sigmund Schutz in an April 27 letter to Gov. Janet Mills and Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control.

“Access to more granular information about the prevalence of COVID-19 would be in the public interest and would advance Maine’s public health mission,” according to the letter.

Schutz wrote on behalf of the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition which includes groups such as NEFAC, the Maine Press Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Schutz, a partner at Portland-based law firm Preti Flaherty, serves on the Board of Directors for both MFOIC and NEFAC.

In the letter, Schutz explained that by not releasing more detailed data, Maine is “out of step” with other New England states. Information on the incidence of COVID-19 by municipality is made public in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

“Access to more information on numbers of COVID-19 cases by specific location would have direct public health benefits, by allowing the public to better prepare and take precautions,” Schutz wrote. “It would also serve to enhance public confidence in Maine’s response by replacing rumors and suspicion with solid data.”

Calling for more COVID-19 data is just one example of how NEFAC is helping to educate and keep communities informed during this public health crisis. Other efforts include:

Providing First Amendment experts and journalists to educators throughout the region to help with the increase in remote classes.
Explaining the responsibilities of government during the pandemic despite technological “learning curves.”
Offering free online classes on the First Amendment and open government during times of public crisis.
Calling for more detailed coronavirus case data in Massachusetts.
Supporting a free legal hotline for New England journalists covering the pandemic.
Writing an op/ed for The Boston Globe that spotlighted the increasing secrecy within all levels of government.
Expressing concern over Rhode Island’s decision to suspend the state’s open meeting law.
Joining more than 100 open government advocates to demand transparency and opportunities for public oversight during the health crisis.
Reminding New England governors that news organizations are essential businesses and should be allowed to operate during state-wide lock-downs.
Calling on Rhode Island Gov. Raimondo to provide more access to journalists covering her daily briefings on the pandemic.

Learn more about how NEFAC is helping New England communities during the COVID-19 pandemic here. Please support these much-needed efforts by making a donation today.


NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, WBUR, Boston University and the Robertson Foundation.

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