Update on an alternative protocol to the 14-day quarantine: 10 May 2020

Friends and Neighbors,

Because of your concerns related to a requirement that contemplates continuing the 14-day restriction on out-of-state visitors from public interactions as I outlined in my April 30 report, I wanted to respond with an update on the state’s pursuit of a more targeted, refined approach.

With COVID deaths currently at 80,000 nationally and climbing by roughly 2000 each day, we must be gravely concerned about the consequences of suddenly having travelers from all over the world again coming to MDI.

As I described in my April 21 op-ed in the Bangor Daily News, greatly expanded testing is the only way we can assure safety to Maine residents, employees, and visitors to our communities.  Without such assurance, our local tourism businesses cannot survive.

In response, I am glad to see that Maine businesses like Idexx and Jackson Labs are quickly ramping up testing capacity for the benefit of the state. This takes us substantially in the right direction in relation to a more targeted approach beyond the blunt tool of a baseline 14-day quarantine for all visitors.

I am also heartened that discussions are developing between our local health providers and business leaders to explore with the state alternate protocols for visitors which would better assure the safety and health of residents, employees and visitors alike allowing some prospect for summer business while containing the risk that our area suddenly becomes the next New England COVID hotspot which all acknowledge would be the worst possible outcome in terms of both health and business.

A rigorous protocol of screening and testing visitors and employees will require substantial new logistical effort from all parties.  But the essential importance of our businesses and health makes such an effort prudent and necessary.

If we can gain such a mutual commitment from businesses, residents, and healthcare providers, I believe we might be able, even within the overall prospect of a curtailed season, to make things at least a little better and safer for everyone.

From conversations that I have had in Augusta, I am confident that the Governor understands and shares my concerns. Our common purpose is to keep people safe by avoiding the catastrophe of a viral outbreak that would cause Mainers to die and prolong the economic harm to our communities. Denying that risk is both shortsighted and dangerous.

To achieve that common goal, we need solutions based in science which allow us to go about our lives and pursue our livelihoods safely and without unnecessary impediment. I know the Governor understands and agrees with that as well and supports discussions toward that end.

In the meantime, the secondary consequences of this pandemic are already stressing the well-being of many individuals and families to the point of real damage..  

To me, this is all the more reason to avoid setbacks now and risk prolonging the collective sacrifices that families are currently making.  But these compounding hardships also confirm the necessity of providing a broad safety net for all our citizens at this time.  

No one should be losing their homes, suffering from untreated illness, or going without food as a result of what is now both a public health crisis and a growing economic crisis.  We are fortunate here to have excellent volunteer networks of community care. But the state and federal governments simply must step up to the task on the road ahead as well.

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