FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Augusta, ME) — Governor Mills has released her twenty-three-page, four stage plan for “Restarting Maine’s Economy.” Having apparently not sought the input or collaboration of anyone outside of her closest inner circle, the governor has issued a plan that will bring an end to the livelihood of thousands of Mainers, perhaps permanently, while causing the economic downturn to become much deeper and our recovery much farther off.
It is our grave concern that her decisions could devastate the families in our districts that rely on the businesses who employ them and the impact of this will be felt for decades.
Aside from her complete lack of collaboration or cooperation with others who might have provided valuable insight, the governor has based her plan on a philosophical idea that this new virus is so devastating that resisting it justifies the destruction of Maine’s economy.
We strongly disagree. We cannot hide our way to a virus-free statewide community. We must learn to adapt to the new reality that there is now another potentially deadly virus among us with which we must learn to coexist in a way that protects the health of all Mainers.
Recently, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine to stop the coronavirus will be known “by this coming winter.” For Maine’s economy, heavily dependent on tourism, this coming winter will be far too late. Skipping an entire tourist season would be a death knell for hundreds, perhaps thousands of businesses and disaster for thousands of families.
As with most viruses, medical science will be challenged to find a cure for COVID-19 in the foreseeable future. If solving and curing a virus were so easily within our grasp, we would no longer have the flu or common colds.
Despite the intense amount of money and awareness raised by concerts, telethons, and World AIDS Day, there is still no cure or vaccine for HIV/AIDS more than three decades after it became a prominent worldwide concern. Today, there are 38 million people in the world living with HIV/AIDS. Nearly 800,000 people died from that virus last year alone.
It is very likely that COVID-19 is something that will be with us in some form for a long time and we must start learning to live with it today. While sadly, Maine has so far lost fifty-three people from COVID-19, we have also lost 41 fellow citizens from pneumonia and influenza this season, a figure that Maine CDC believes “is likely an underrepresentation of the true burden.”
In her ten-year economic growth plan, the governor pinned her hopes of expanding Maine’s economic future on attracting more tourists and convincing them to remain here as citizens. Now, she has closed the door to these tourists and her actions have made certain the failure of an untold number of businesses by whom these new Mainers might have been employed.
Whether the “Outbreak of 2020” or “The Year Without an April” reshapes our state in ways we never imagined is now largely dependent on decisions made by humans, rather than biology. There are a number of things we must recognize and act upon as we move forward.
· We must now accept that the local antique store is just as capable of maintaining safe practices among its customers and employees as Walmart.
· We must allow the local pool servicing business to stop by their customer’s backyard when they are not even home, fix their pump, and be gone without having to give social distancing a second thought.
· We must abandon the notion that it is safe for a family to walk their dog on a golf course but not for a foursome of friends to play a round while walking separately or driving separate carts along the same fairways.
· We must stop reinforcing the idea that national chains such as Target and Home Depot are able to maintain safe practices, but homegrown businesses like Reny’s and Marden’s are not.
· We do not need a different, detailed checklist for each type of business in our state that government does not intend to enforce anyway. We need strong, simply worded guidelines that help protect people from the virus.
· Most importantly, we must recognize that our health and our economy are deeply interwoven and that government must strike a balance when weighing critical, life-changing decisions.
While we had hoped to be responsible partners with Governor Mills as she made these enormous, life-changing—even state-changing—decisions, she has chosen a different path that, sadly, does not include the state legislature.
Because of her actions, Senate Republicans are left to reach out to and interact with our constituents in our own way, making sure they are safe, healthy, and well-protected. We will be in touch again very soon and make our back-and-forth a regular part of our weekly processes.
Be safe, be well, and God bless!
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