State of Maine: The daily grind of a brave new world



On we go, fumbling our way through this brave new world, figuring life out a day at a time. A consensus has emerged on some things. Wash your hands for 20 seconds every time you go out, come in, cook, eat, sneeze or use the toilet. Got it. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Check. Stay six feet away (about a fathom for you fishermen) from anyone you don’t live with. Done. 

We are just beginning to understand some of the fuzzier issues, such as how long the Coronavirus can live on various surfaces. It is probably okay to open your mail, take in food or groceries from delivery services and accept change at the market. Though the virus can be detected on surfaces for hours to days, the brainy people say that after six to eight hours it is a shadow of its former self, present but not alarmingly contagious. 

If any of that freaks you out, wear gloves, let your non-perishables and mail sit for 48 hours before handling, or wipe down the outside of delivered items with a disinfectant. Casual transactions of goods and even money are not a big threat under most circumstances. 

Then we get to the big stuff. How long should restaurants stay closed? Retail stores? Should hotels and campgrounds be closed? Airbnb? People are not supposed to be traveling, so why do they need places to stay? Yes, some travel is “essential,” for work or to assist a family member in need. But travel to “get a break” or for a “getaway?” Don’t be doing it.  

In a state and, hereabouts, a county, that is so dependent on a tourist economy, keeping to ourselves is worrisome. Even if we are able to be in full welcome mode for the second half of the season, what’s lost is lost. Hotels and restaurants cannot make up empty beds or tables. Nonetheless, we have two options. 

We can take it on the chin with a prolonged shutdown of most services and with any luck get it over with in the shortest possible period of time, or we can be lax, open sooner or half way, with potentially disastrous results, and have to close again with the whole debacle taking months instead of weeks. 

Thank you, thank you to Acadia National Park. Taking the difficult decision to close the park is a great help to surrounding communities, though always painful to an institution that prides itself on being the people’s parks. Thank you, Acadia. 

This is not an authoritarian country. We can ask people to live by the pandemic rules but many choose to push the boundaries. Seasonal residents, refugees from places like New York City and even fellow Mainers are heading for the coast, stay-at-home requests notwithstanding. This places additional demand on local health care services (people get hurt when they play) and on the local food supply. 

Nor are we Italy, with the populace out on balconies singing to each other. We would be out on our balconies, if we had balconies, screaming about whether cruise ships should be allowed to come to Bar Harbor, or whether Airbnb should be open in Blue Hill, or whether seasonal residents should be welcomed as usual or discouraged.  

The news story of the week is that Prince Charles, who tested positive for Coronavirus, is social distancing at Balmoral Castle. Why didn’t we think of that! You have to hand it to the British monarchy. They know how to manage a crisis. We wish the Prince well. 

Note to the political parties: Seriously? Is this the time to be sending out nasty messages? Democrats are sniping and griping about what Senator Collins said and how she said it. Republicans are conducting a smear campaign on Dr. Anthony Fauci since he is raising, ever so gently and ever so tactfully, questions about President Donald Trump’s madcap approach to securing the nation’s health. Can we not take a break from the hate and discontent long enough to focus on the best ways to keep us all alive? 

The response to the Coronavirus is somewhat like chemotherapy. In the effort to kill off the virus, healthy cells are damaged as well. In this case it is the economy. As difficult as it is, we will have to take measures that negatively impact our economy in order to get back to normal. Failing to do so means prolonging the crisis and making the damage worse. 

In the meantime, Maine posts signs on the Turnpike asking people to stay in their homes for 14 days if they are coming here from out of state. Not gonna happen. Some seasonal businesses are pressing to open. Why? To serve the seasonal visitors who have been asked not to come yet. 

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Jill Goldthwait

Jill Goldthwait

Retired nurse and former independent Maine State Senator.

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