On September 9, 2022, six months ago and one year after Gov. Janet Mills announced the nation’s harshest COVID-19 vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, the Maine CDC announced that at least 26 long-term care facilities in the state were in the midst of COVID-19 outbreaks. In this one week, there were 400 cases in these facilities, 138 of them among fully vaccinated staff. Just one month ago, 70 people at an assisted living facility in Portland were COVID positive, nearly one-third of all residents and staff.
These announcements raise an obvious question to everyone except the Maine media. Given that every staff member in these facilities is required to be vaccinated or be fired, and every resident has also received the vaccine, how is it possible that any outbreaks are still occurring at all, much less more than two dozen in one week? And what does this fact mean for the future of the vaccine mandates? These questions have not been asked of Mills or any official in her administration.
The simple, scientifically proven reason behind these outbreaks is that the vaccines do not prevent transmission of the virus, meaning they do not stop someone who is infected from spreading the disease. This fact, well-known in the scientific community and publicly stated repeatedly by the U.S. CDC, somehow escaped Gov. Mills and her COVID advisors when she announced the mandate on August 12, 2021, justifying it by saying that people in a healthcare setting have a right to feel safe from contracting COVID-19 from their caregivers. Mills’ justification has never aligned with the scientific consensus about the vaccines’ impact on transmission.
In March 2021, U.S. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told MSNBC that “our data from the CDC today suggest that vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick.” Walenski could not have been more wrong, and the scientific community said so loudly and immediately. Less than 24 hours later, the CDC issued a statement walking back Walensky’s statement. “Dr. Walensky spoke broadly during this interview,” they said. “It’s possible that some people who are fully vaccinated could get COVID-19. The evidence isn’t clear whether they can spread the virus to others. We are continuing to evaluate the evidence.”
Four months later, the evidence told a very certain scientific story and both Walensky and Dr. Anthony Fauci took to national television to say so. “What they don’t do anymore,” said Walensky of the vaccines, “is prevent transmission.” This news had already been published widely in media outlets such as the Associated Press, the New York Times, and even the CDC itself which cited scientific information, “demonstrating that Delta infection resulted in similarly high SARS-CoV-2 viral loads in vaccinated and unvaccinated people.”
Despite this widespread dissemination of scientific data showing the vaccines do not stop a person from spreading the disease to others, Mills announced a “get a shot or get fired” vaccine mandate that offered no exemption for religious or philosophical beliefs. Just a week after Walensky and Fauci made the national media rounds with the new “best science,” Mills justified her mandate on the opposite idea, that she did so to protect patients in healthcare facilities from becoming infected by staff.
“So, based on the best science, the best medical advice possible,” said Mills, she implemented what turned out to be a devastating mandate without explaining what science she had that was better than that put forth by the U.S. CDC, which she was directly contradicting. Even if the vaccines had been completely effective at preventing transmission, there was no compelling need to implement a mandate for healthcare workers. The week before her announcement, for example, not a single case of COVID-19 was reported among staff at the nearly one hundred nursing homes across Maine and not one death.
Immediately following Mills’ announcement, three nursing homes revealed that, due to its impact on their already dire staffing situation, they would close, and more followed soon after. Facilities like these in Maine were already facing a dire situation before as many as 2,500 staff people left the industry, most for good. Today, more than a quarter of the state’s nursing home beds lie empty due to a lack of staff to manage them. More than three dozen group homes for the severely mentally impaired also closed when hundreds of staffers chose firing or resigning over being forced to submit to the vaccine. At the same time, hospitals eliminated entire programs in an effort to deal with the costs of housing the types of patients they previously sent to nursing homes for rehabilitation. Two weeks before the mandate deadline, St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston, for example, announced that it would close its neonatal ICU after numerous staff resigned over the vaccine mandate.
Ten days after Mills’ announcement, Maine ranked dead last in number and rate of COVID-related deaths among nursing home residents. Clearly, there was no crisis that warranted such an extreme mandate. Within a month, however, as staff began to resign in advance of the choice they faced, rates of COVID deaths among residents jumped to 4th in the nation despite Mills’ promised protection of the vaccine. Following the October 28 mandate deadline, the state led the U.S. at seven times the national average. Maine went from lowest in the nation with zero cases just before the mandate announcement, to highest in the nation just after the mandate took effect.
Two months after the mandate began, the staffing shortage at St. Mary’s Hospital became so great, hospital leaders made the decision to allow employees who were COVID-19 positive to return to work. Having terminated the employment of those who tested negative for the virus but had not been vaccinated, they allowed people with active cases of the virus to go back to work.
Imagine what it must have felt like to be someone who had to give up their lifelong profession and their employment because they chose not to become vaccinated, then watch as former co-workers who actually had an active case of the virus continued working at the facility from which they had been fired. Despite the Governor’s claim that she implemented the mandate to protect patients, she took no action against any hospital that allowed COVID-positive workers to remain in their positions.
Amazingly, Mills cited the same U.S. CDC guidelines as providing a loophole for such COVID-positive workers exempting them from a mandate that she had implemented by contradicting similar U.S. CDC guidelines.
Eighteen months after the vaccine mandate for healthcare workers took effect, long-term care facilities in Maine are still experiencing widespread outbreaks of COVID-19. The mandate accomplished none of the things that Mills claimed it would when she announced it. Instead, the legacy of her science defying act lies with the residents of, and those who cannot access, the state’s devastated nursing home system, the families of severely mentally disabled adults whose lives have been uprooted by the unnecessary closure of dozens of group homes, and the hundreds of healthcare workers whose careers were destroyed because they refused to allow their government to inject a vaccine into their bodies for reasons that the nation’s leading scientists had concluded would not be served by that vaccine.
According to U.S. CDC data, further research has shown that from April through August of last year, roughly six of every ten people who died with COVID-19 had been fully vaccinated. Last month, the Maine CDC stopped updating the feature on its website that provided the number of breakthrough infections that ended in death. Despite the overwhelming evidence that the vaccine mandate has done great harm to the healthcare that Mainers receive from providers, Mills’ still refuses to remove the mandate or even to acknowledge her mistake in implementing it in the first place.