Viewpoint: Coronavirus and our community 



By Charles Sidman 

This opinion piece begins with some statements that need to be made and ends with several pleas to the community. 

First, the business communities in Bar Harbor and Maine are NOT uniformly “livid” and opposed (as several local papers quoted this past week, and our Chamber urges) to the Governor’s rational and prudent plan to reopen our economy in phases. While nearly everyone in business deeply feels and regrets our current economic pain, many (and I hope most) realize that immediate economic interests cannot trump the physical health of literally everyone in the community. Who among us would knowingly accept responsibility for the inevitable (if reopening happens too soon) and unnecessary deaths of innocent children or the already ill or elderly in exchange for short-term gain? Such an exchange is especially fraught as much of the preventable illness or death would strike not-otherwise-involved local residents, whereas a major portion of Bar Harbor’s business profit accrues to non-resident owners. 

Second, it must be clearly recognized that no level of government, much less private firms, currently or for the foreseeable future has the scientific knowledge, or the supplies, labor and technical capacity to effectively screen and protect the majority of those still uninfected. Until a vaccine is developed, mass produced and adequately distributed (which could take years if ever), the Governor’s plan is the best that has yet been specified. Of particular relevance for a tourist economy such as Maine, and especially Bar Harbor, we have so far escaped the much greater COVID-19 impact seen in other regions (New York, for example) largely because of 1.) lower year-round population and density, and 2.) mere good fortune that the virus struck during the off-season. Neither would persist if usual summer visitation from more affected regions resumes before adequate control is possible. 

In closing, I make three suggestions to the community. Most importantly, we cannot express too much concern for and assistance to our neighbors, often front-line workers in devastated local businesses who, unlike many in management or out-of-state owners, have little or no financial reserves or alternative sources of livelihood. We must pull together and urge government at all levels to help as well. 

Next, we must be aware that our and our loved ones’ safety depends critically on others. In this situation especially, we truly are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and must bear this in mind in all of our current actions and choices. 

Finally, I urge the Governor to persist in her firm, phased and scientifically-informed approach to reopening our state economy. Going too fast can only lead to more drastic and disruptive dislocations later if the virus becomes firmly established in Maine through intense summer visitation. Let us not be penny-wise and pound-foolish agitating for what we want immediately, if we hope to get there eventually in the best shape possible. That said, there is plenty of pain to go around, and no clear way for any sub-group to “win” without increasing the harm to others. 

 

Charles Sidman is the owner or co-owner of several Bar Harbor businesses. He lives in Bar Harbor.  

 

 

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