Editorial: Getting back to it 

The emergency is nearly over. That is, the state of civil emergency in Maine due to the pandemic. Governor Mills announced earlier this month the decision to end the declaration June 30. That will be 472 days since the Governor first declared an emergency in March 2020.  

The proclamation allowed the administration to respond to the pandemic at a pace government is rarely accused of moving at — swiftly. Back in those early days after the state’s first case of COVID-19, most people were on board with the action. But as it became clearer that the virus was not going anywhere soon, the continued state of emergency became a lightning rod. Maine people elected the Governor, but they also elected the Legislature, Republican members of which chafed at restrictions imposed on businesses and the general public.  

Mills is hardly unique in invoking her emergency powers. Governors across the country did the same. A flurry of bills has sought to curb those powers. It is a conversation worth having with both the benefit of hindsight and forward thinking. Who knows what party will be in Maine’s highest office when the next catastrophe comes along. It is essential not to hamstring him or her from responding to situations as they unfold.   

As we enter these waning days of the emergency state, life certainly does not feel like it is in crisis mode. The sun is out and so are people. The last remaining state-imposed restrictions will soon give way to recommendations. Mainers have overwhelmingly embraced vaccination. As of June 15, seventy-four percent of residents ages 12 and up had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Maine ranks third in the U.S. in the percentage of eligible residents who are fully vaccinated. To push those numbers higher and perhaps reward someone who already has been vaccinated, the state has created a sweepstakes for the inoculated. Winner takes home $1 for every person vaccinated by July 4. The pot stands at over $875,000.   

In other financial incentives, the state is offering $1,500 to convince the unemployed to go back to work. From a purely financial perspective, it makes sense. Maine saves on unemployment payments. Employers desperate to hire hopefully get some applicants. Businesses can better serve customers and more of them, boosting the economy. But a carrot dangled in front of one group of people can feel a lot like a stick to those who have been working all along. May the ends justify the means.  

We look forward to officially graduating from a state of emergency to a state of near-normalcy here in Maine June 30, but the world is forever changed. In our rush to put COVID in our rearview mirror, we must not stop looking back and learning from all this. Other emergencies will come. It would be nice to know we are better prepared to handle them.    

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