Gov. Janet Mills has asked for input from the public on what course Maine should take in the current virus condition. Here is mine.

Mainers, in their classic, stoic manner, have been troupers in their respect for the government-mandated requirements to stay at home, maintain “social distancing,” and observe the shutdown of so-called non-essential services. According to the CDC, their admirable behavior has resulted in a national impact rank of 41 — placing Maine in the bottom quartile of states in the metrics that measure the coronavirus conditions in the country.

However, in spite of this enviable condition, Maine ranks eighth in the country for the most aggressive responses to the virus. Clearly, the time has come for the governor and her administration to begin easing the state back from the current lockdown. A stark reality of the new normal is that we will never, even with proven therapeutics and vaccines, achieve a zero death rate, and that must be part of the health experts’ messaging to us. We need to push back on the concept that we must all slavishly bow to “science.”

Maine’s lockdown is taking a disproportionate toll on citizens. The University of Chicago released a study which shows there is a lucky, stay-at-home 37% of workers who can do their jobs while practicing social distancing. Their study also shows that this fortunate workforce accounts for 46% of all wages. With a heavy self-employed count in Maine, these statistics are probably even more severe. The governor must accept that the new normal must strike a balance between lives and livelihoods. Hungry mouths, abject poverty, and economic paralysis cannot be the price of a cure.

Maine must be re-opened — albeit with common sense.

President Donald Trump’s guidelines for re-opening are broadly proscriptive and do not ignore coronavirus science or health experts. These guidelines provide “gating criteria” and a phasing-in process that allow for a sensible return to an economy that will reflect the new normal. They provide for flexibility on the use of masks and testing procedures, while still urging avoidance of close contact with others — especially at large-venue events. The guidelines also stress the protection of seniors and those with underlying illnesses.

Another large segment of Maine’s population needs Mills to accept the new normal — those who are awaiting ”elective” or “non-essential” hospital procedures. Hip and knee replacements, as well as mastectomies are being delayed. Preventive screenings including mammograms, melanoma checks and colonoscopies have been canceled. At the same time, this medical lockdown is pushing hospitals and treatment centers into bankruptcy. Doctors and hospitals make most of their money on these elective procedures.

Also, some doctors have pointed out that there will be a loss of acuity in surgical skills with a prolonged period of non-surgical activity.

Now, for the sake of reserving medical services for future virus needs, the economic-health balance has been tilted to hurt both waiting patients and their hoped-for service providers.

There is nothing in this new normal that is political. However, there is a political backdrop to this situation that is unfortunate and unhelpful. The methodical, scientific and economic phase-in of President Trump’s re-opening of the country is being resisted by many on the left purely because of their disdain for the president and their desire to shift blame upon him. Americans want the plan to work — to restore our health and regain our economy. Yet, fearful of any inkling of a Trump “win,” the left is scornful of the slightest hint of optimism.

Simply stated, Trump is not the virus. He did, indeed, act appropriately and decisively in January on closing immigration from China. Yes, he admitted Americans coming in from China — but that’s a patriotic responsibility. And, yes, he and the administration did not have a ready-made stockpile of every possible piece of medical equipment necessary to combat the worst pandemic in modern times — but who could have foreseen the unforeseeable?

If a city-sized asteroid is discovered hurtling toward the United States, or if the moon falls out of orbit, is it Trump’s fault for not being prepared?

Let’s do the right thing. We should follow the president’s task force plan and ask our governor — especially in light of Maine’s enviable risk condition, to wisely and methodically end the lockdown and bring this state to a new normal — “the way life should be.”

Another View is a weekly column written collaboratively by Dale Landrith of Camden, Ken Frederic of Bristol, Paul Ackerman of Martinsville, Jan Dolcater of Rockport and Ralph “Doc” Wallace of Rockport.


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