By Scott Hughes
The biggest question of the day is how to restart our economy without endangering the lives of our citizens.
I would like to begin by responding to some items in last week’s Islander newspaper. Alf Anderson, director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, is quoted in an editorial as saying “The small businesses of Bar Harbor, and the state of Maine, deserve the chance to provide a safe visitor experience that will give us the opportunity to survive.” There is an article that states that a task force “is studying potential testing systems and other alternatives to requiring visitors arriving from out of state to quarantine for 14 days.” According to the best medical advice that is available, one of the major ways to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus is to quarantine for 14 days. If there was a simpler, easier way to do this, would we not be doing that? Is it being suggested that the town will test every single visitor? In every car, van, truck and bus? From every boat, yacht and cruise ship? Does that mean that permanent residents will be given access to testing whenever we want it? How will the residents have any feeling of safety when each day would bring out-of-state visitors, any one of which could be infected and spread this deadly disease throughout the downtown?
If it is not economically or medically feasible to test every visitor the moment they step into town, then how do we ensure that visitors “do the right thing” regarding wearing masks, social distancing and so forth? If we cannot even get our own local population to 100 percent follow these protocols, and if you have been about town you have seen this, how can we expect that the summer visitors will do so? Remember, wearing a cloth or surgical mask does not protect the wearer—it protects everyone else.
We normally get millions of visitors during the spring, summer and fall. So, when the President or the Governor talks about reopening the economy, in general they are talking about towns and cities that have a fairly stable population, i.e., where people live and work. Bar Harbor, like other tourist towns, is different than your average town. Our influx of those “from away” greatly outnumbers our local population. The “flow” of people into this area is much, much greater than the vast majority of communities.
One of the most troubling problems with this pandemic is the asymptomatic carrier of the virus. Twenty-five to fifty percent of the people infected with this coronavirus are not even aware that they have it. Think about that. When you see those statistics on the news about how many confirmed cases there are, with that number rising daily around the world, please understand that this figure could easily be doubled. So, if the asymptomatic people are not as careful as everyone is supposed to be, by staying socially distant, by wearing a mask, by washing their hands, et cetera, then they are spreading this virus with no repercussions to themselves. And those who they spread it to may not be aware that they have been infected for up to two weeks.
I understand that the businesses in Bar Harbor will suffer greatly with a much-curtailed tourist season, but if the best medical guidelines are not followed, we will all suffer with the sickness and death that will be brought to our town.
Therapeutic treatments for those who contract this virus are not yet readily available. Until a vaccine is discovered and proven, this is our new normal.
Scott Hughes lives in Bar Harbor