To the Editor:
We’ve done a lot of hard work, made a lot of sacrifices and are also very lucky. This has resulted in a low incidence of COVID–19 cases in Hancock County. Not zero, like we need it to be, but very low.
This is your reminder that we are still in peril and our biggest dangers are complacency and misinformation.
York County, the victim of COVID-19 outbreaks started by attendees at the Millinocket wedding where many flouted basic public health recommendations, leading to the death of, so far, seven people and the sickness of a couple of hundred others, is in grave danger of an out–of–control spread of the virus. Originally clustered in the western part of the county, cases now are also reported in a restaurant in Ogunquit, the naval shipyard in Kittery and Kennebunk High School. Hospitalizations in York County are beginning to rise.
The Portland Press Herald reported on Sept. 27, “It’s not just that we have several outbreaks there, but that they are coalescing into one big fire,” says Dr. Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer at MaineHealth, the state’s largest hospital network. “We’re seeing a lot of people testing positive from that area – young, old, healthy, not so healthy – and a lot of them don’t have any idea where they got it.”
Oxford County is also seeing rising numbers because of an outbreak at the paper mill in Rumford that has spread into the community. As a result, schools have had to close to in-person teaching again. Cases are rising again in Androscoggin County that may be linked to workers at the paper mill. Health officials are worried that area might be like York County was a few weeks ago: heading for much greater trouble.
Does anyone in this county believe we are immune to this danger?
Time and time again, we must keep reminding ourselves to wear a mask everywhere outside our homes when anywhere near other people; to stay at least 6 feet away from others; to keep our hands away from our faces and wash them thoroughly and often; to avoid indoor spaces as much as possible, especially if there are too many people in them; to think long and hard before we tee up family gatherings for the holidays. There is no immunity among family members. Get your flu shot ASAP because you don’t want both illnesses at the same time, and our hospital would struggle to take care of a lot of you with COVID-19 and others with the flu.
Business owners, who have gone the extra mile, and then some, this summer to keep the community safe, will need to continue to require public health safety at all times.
This is not a political matter, although it’s been turned into a fake, ugly one. It’s practical behavior that has served us very well this summer. We have proven to ourselves that by working together it is within our power to stay safe while we continue to wait for a viable and safe vaccine.
Let’s do this.
Julian Kuffler, M.D., MPH