This piece was originally published in the Portland Press Herald
Businesses throughout Maine are closing their doors, some permanently and others for the 2020 season. With these closures comes the loss of thousands of full- and part-time jobs that Mainers rely on to pay the mortgage and feed their families.
We knew this would happen. An Oxford Economics analysis pegged Maine as the state most vulnerable economically to a coronavirus shutdown.
What is causing these closures? The state’s response to COVID-19 is disproportionate to the threat. The cure we’ve prescribed is worse than the virus itself.
Maine has been shut down under a civil state of emergency and stay at home order for about two months. Business operations have been significantly limited across the state because of the Mills administration’s bungled reopening plan. According to The Wall Street Journal, Maine’s coronavirus response is among the five most restrictive in the country.
The first iteration of Gov. Mills’ reopening plan treated Greenville the same as Portland, allowing the state economy to reopen sector by sector following an arbitrary timeline. To that I ask, where is the science?
What was scientific about allowing two identical businesses in different counties, where spread of the virus varies greatly, to reopen on the same day? Where was the science that said certain businesses should reopen May 1, others June 1 and still others July 1? How were these decisions made?
Then the governor released a “Rural Reopening Plan” that relaxed limitations on some businesses in 12 counties where community transmission of the virus has not been detected. It allowed retail, restaurants and wilderness campsites to reopen sooner than originally planned.
This change was welcome, but it also posed more questions than it answered. Why only these types of businesses, and again, what science are we using as the basis of our decision making? These 12 counties did not have community transmission when the first iteration of her reopening plan was released, so why did we have to wait for this action?
Then on Wednesday, just five days before restaurants in Androscoggin, Cumberland and York counties were set to reopen, Gov. Mills announced she’s postponing the return of dine-in service.
After restaurants in those counties spent weeks ordering food, personal protective equipment and bringing staff back on board in preparation, the governor pulls the rug out from under them by canceling their plans on five days’ notice. They can now serve customers only outdoors (but for some reason, breweries aren’t allowed to do the same thing).
Repeatedly, Gov. Mills, members of her administration and Maine Center for Disease Control director Dr. Nirav Shah have said that Mainers should follow their orders because they’re based on “facts” and “science.”
The obvious truth that no one in the Maine media seems ready to acknowledge is that there’s nothing scientific about the Mills administration’s reopening plan. At best, their actions amount to selective science.
What is the science behind restaurants opening June 1, but bars not being able to reopen until July 1? Not even the federal government differentiates between the two. Why is Gov. Mills?
What is the science behind being allowed to golf only in your home county, unless you’re a member of a club in a different county?
What is the science behind prohibiting two-thirds of Maine’s breweries from reopening to outdoor service when restaurants can do just that? I don’t think the virus is aware of a business’ liquor license classification.
From the start of this pandemic to where we are today, the Mills administration has acted on a whim. The decision making has been erratic and opaque. They’ve shut out the people’s voice in Augusta and expect everyone to fall in line. The Maine CDC does not report data that are regularly reported by other states. The rules they’ve created cannot and are not being enforced, and many of them contradict themselves.
This madness has to stop. We are free people with inalienable rights. Government cannot indefinitely control where we go, what we buy or what we wear. The longer this shutdown continues, the greater the chances of successfully challenging the Mills administration’s orders in court.
The presiding officers of the Maine Legislature, Speaker Sara Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson, must reconvene the Legislature. Mainers deserve to have a say in the state’s economic recovery.
The longer we allow one person to control our state, the more damage we will cause in the long run.