For the most part, Mainers have been cautious throughout the pandemic. They have kept their distance, were among the first in the nation to mask up and have embraced (albeit reluctantly) the changing social norms that have kept us from our friends and family in order to keep the larger community safe.
Maine has consistently been out front in terms of its pandemic response and held its infection rates low even as it went through a busier-than-anticipated summer season last year.
We’ve also been smart: adapting and pivoting to keep our businesses afloat while also protecting our workers and community.
We should be proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we’ve still got a ways to go and now is not the time to become complacent.
It has been a tough year, no doubt, and the damage caused by the pandemic will be with us for a long time to come. The recently passed COVID Relief bill will help in many ways, especially for families at the lower end of the income scale. It is forward-thinking legislation that is intended to support the long-term recovery we are expected to face.
A recent jobs report shows that nationally we are still down close to 10 million jobs from our pre-pandemic level. Even with robust growth, many economists believe it will take roughly three years to get back there.
But, there is much reason to be optimistic.
With three approved COVID-19 vaccines now available, shots are going into arms at a faster pace than anyone could have imagined just two months ago. It is now believed that the U.S. will obtain enough doses to vaccinate all Americans by May. Now, that doesn’t mean that all Americans will actually be vaccinated by May, but, if we keep up our current pace, it is anyone’s guess just how close we will come.
Every day we are gaining and continue to take steps towards so-called herd immunity—a place where enough folks are either vaccinated or have recovered from the virus that it has less and less of an impact.
Last week, the Mills administration began to roll back quarantine requirements for travelers, which sends a strong signal to the country that the state’s hospitality and retail sectors are once again open for business. That is a relief for many Main Street businesses that struggled to keep doors open last year without the steady stream of visitors they’ve been used to.
In the coming weeks and months, as restrictions are loosened and capacity limits increase, it is especially important to continue to do the things we know work to slow the spread of the virus: wear a mask, remain physically distant and practice good hand hygiene.
We have made it this far. Let’s keep our head in the game and, above all, finish strong.