Editorial: One wild ride 

It was back to school for many Hancock County students this week. In an inauspicious start, the national culture clash over mask wearing touched down locally even as COVID cases jumped and hospital officials warned that their resources soon may be tapped. Only about 10 percent of the state’s intensive care unit beds were available Aug. 26 due to a combination of factors, including the virus, seasonal demand and a shortage of workers. The latter factor is likely to be exacerbated by illness and the vaccination requirement for Maine healthcare workers. A “small number” of Northern Light employees had given notice as of last week, according to officials with the hospital network. Eighty-four percent of employees had already done their part to protect themselves and others, however. 

Also Aug. 26, Maine CDC confirmed eight positive COVID-19 cases at Seaport Village in Ellsworth and the YMCA’s Camp Discovery on Webb Pond closed a day early due to an adult there testing positive. That same day, the state reported 390 new cases, the highest one-day total since early May. Hancock County’s transmission rate was categorized as “high.” 

Clearly, we may be done with COVID-19, but the disease is not done with us. 

So, where do we go from here? Straight to the doctor’s office or a local pharmacy for a vaccine if you haven’t checked that item off your list. Despite a vocal minority, most Hancock County residents have already been there, done that. Nearly 78 percent of residents ages 12 and up have received at least one dose, vastly improving their odds of staying out of one of those in-demand ICU beds. Many may now be eligible for boosters. 

Next up is settling back into routines we were only too eager to drop a few short months ago, such as masking up in public indoor spaces – vaccinated or not. Surveys asking parents and educators about preferred back-to-school precautions questioned whether respondents wanted masking to be required this school year. Do any of us “want” to mask? That’s a no. We do it because greater minds than ours have done the studies proving real, tangible benefits. We do it because despite high vaccination rates in Maine, the late, great hope of herd immunity remains unfulfilled. The virus is spreading.  

Nonetheless, life carries on with modifications. The Blue Hill Fair returns this weekend. In addition to the usual rides, food and agricultural exhibits, fairgoers will find hand sanitizer stations and a vaccine station. Northern Light Blue Hill Hospital and Northern Light Home Care and Hospice will offer free COVID-19 vaccines daily, Friday through Monday, from 1-4 p.m. No appointments needed. Both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available. 

While vaccination is unlikely to be a spur-of-the-moment decision for many Mainers, every shot counts. We applaud hospital officials for bringing the clinic to the people. It will make the process easy for individuals who want a vaccine but haven’t gotten around to getting one yet. The pandemic has been a wild ride. Vaccination is the single best tool we have to ensure we all get to disembark eventually.   

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