State of Maine: Welcome to the new normal



The reality of the Coronavirus pandemic finally seems to be sinking in. There are fewer and fewer travelers venturing into our coastal communities to take a break from life wherever they live it.  

Law enforcement has the unhappy task of addressing alleged violations with shop owners and lodging establishments. This they are doing with their usual good cheer and human kindness, and we now have the backing of the state to make sure government orders are taken seriously. 

Maine case numbers and deaths are both on the rise and Hancock County, one of the last in the state to list cases, has now clambered into the boat with everyone else. Cases may increase more slowly in rural areas where social distancing is something of a way of life, but to the extent we think we can flout the do-not-gather rule with impunity, we will still have our share of illness and death, it just may roll out more slowly. 

There are plenty of pleasures we are learning to do without for the time being. Dinner with friends. A beer at the bar. A visit to the library. Dropping in at the local coffee shop. There are more serious things we must learn to live without, too. A dental exam. Day care. A job. Individuals and organizations have been brilliant about moving many of our customary activities online. Church services, book groups, cocktail parties, exercise classes and knitting groups are all just a click away. Work, too. It’s not the same, but it is way better than nothing. 

Then there are the things that we could do without nicely, thank you very much. At the top of that list would be the floods of email announcing cures for COVID-19, or COVID tests, or special deals on masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, or cleaning the air in your house, or boosting your immune system, or the benefits of turmeric, or staying healthy at a burger drive-through, or Anti-Virus SafeBreath masks. Just stop. Entrepreneurship may be the American way, but now? Chill. 

Next would be the political parties trying to use the pandemic as a way to raise money. That stinks too. A lot of us don’t have disposable cash at the moment. How about you don’t add to the anxiety with grim scenarios of what will happen if the wrong guys win? 

The sudden silence in the presidential campaign is something of a relief. We know who the Republican candidate will be, ditto for the Democrats. We know both men, their pasts and their track records. We will be able to watch and listen to them again in the fall, soon enough. National election campaigns in Canada are 78 days long, in the UK, 139 days, in Mexico 147. In the U.S we now have presidential campaigns that go on for two years—half the term of the incumbent. Spare us. 

We can only think about the end of all this in speculative terms. One big question is how the hoped-for return to normal will be managed. Whenever the ban on travel, lodging, dining out and other activities is lifted, it is likely that Hancock County will quickly be flooded with visitors. Hence it is absolutely essential not to lift those restrictions too soon. Once we open to visitors, it will be to all visitors. We don’t get to pick COVID-free visitors only. They will come from all over the country—from places that were scrupulous about controlling the virus and places that considered it unnecessary to limit activity. 

Some states will be past the case “surge” some time next month, others will just be approaching it. It is best to err on the side of caution, and tourist towns will need our state government to back us on this. 

In the meantime, are you struck dumb with boredom while socially distancing? How about this? Have you responded to the 2020 Census? If not, this is a good time to stand up and be counted. It is important in oh, so many ways. Census data is used to allocate our congressional representation. We will always have two U.S. senators but if our population declines we could lose one of our two members of the US House.  

Census data is also used to make decisions on where to send federal funding. Allocations for Head Start, school lunch, adult education, substance abuse prevention and treatment and much more are based on census data. Get yourself counted. Don’t bother to fortify yourself with a beverage and snacks for this task. It takes most people less than fifteen minutes. 

Most households have received an invitation to respond. To complete yours online go to <my2020census.gov>. And unless you are a healthcare worker or emergency responder, don’t say you’re too busy. 

Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Retired nurse and former independent Maine State Senator.

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