Editorial: The risk of complacency 

In March, the thought of touching a shopping cart at the grocery store sent chills up your spine. By May, an appointment at the salon sounded like a terrific (and needed) idea. In July, it seemed okay to attend a small social gathering.   

Here we are in August, and the streets of Bar Harbor are once again overflowing with guests. Granted, tourism is still nowhere near where 2019 numbers, but parking is becoming much more difficult to find.  

However, even with an uptick of guests and people leaving their homes, Mainers are doing a good job keeping the coronavirus at bay. Maine’s Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Nirav Shah, spent his Aug. 6 briefing talking about how well Maine is doing. 

Right nowMaine’s seven-day average positivity rate stands at 0.94 percent. That is higher than the preceding seven days, but to compare, the national average is 8 percent and throughout July and into August, Florida saw daily positivity rates hovering between 12 and 18 percent.   

As Shah spoke, both at the top and at the end of the briefing, he told people to keep it up. Now, he said, is not the time to give up.  

But what does that mean? 

Shah may have been warning about running the risk of complacency. Complacency occurs when we normalize behavior and lack appreciation for the true risks involved in a situation. The captain and crew of the Titanic lacked appreciation for the size of an iceberg. More recently, the 2015 sinking of the cargo ship El Faro, containing crew members from Maine, was found to be due, in part, to complacency. The captain had piloted the route many times and ridden out numerous storms without incident. He underestimated the need to move his ship to safer waters despite having information about the storm track and severity of an approaching hurricane 

Looking around us, just a bit to our south, other states are struggling to keep the virus in check. Massachusetts saw a 43 percent increase in positive cases this week over last; Rhode Island a 56 percent increase and New Jersey 70 percent 

Maine so far has proven it can host visitors and remain safe, but it is up to everyone to play a role so it can continue. It is easy to become complacent when cases are low, but cases are low because people are following the rules. Mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing are working. The proof is in the numbers.  

While some may be ready to call ‘mercy’ as they reach a tipping point in their quarantine fatigue, our ability to resume any semblance of normal in the future depends on our ability to keep infection rates low. 

Even though it is hard, stay the course, Maine. Stay the course.  


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