Mills balances need to re-open with public health with four-stage plan

Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday outlined a four-stage plan for Maine to gradually re-open businesses in the state.

While her plan is to extend the current stay-at-home order through May 31, certain business and activities will be allowed to open beginning on May 1 if they follow  safety protocols developed by the Maine Center for Disease Control and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

The order is thoughtful and is based on evidence that our state has been successful – to this point – in flattening the curve and preventing a spike in COVID-19 cases that would overwhelm our health care system.

The governor was clear. The plan lays out a roadmap for a gradual re-opening, but if cases increase too fast, if our ability to test for coronavirus or provide equipment to health care professionals falls off, restrictions could be re-imposed.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills speaks about her administration’s plan to gradually lift coronavirus-related restrictions at a news conference Tuesday in Augusta. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Over the next few days, there are going to be a lot of questions for businesses and their customers alike.

Portland, for example, extended its stay-at-home order on Monday night through May 18. Then on Wednesday morning, the city said it intended to align with the statewide order. And the governor’s new executive order and safety guidelines for business were not released on Tuesday, meaning some businesses may be forced to scramble if they hope to reopen on Friday.

The reaction was about what you would expect in some circles.

The governor was compared to a Nazi by far-right commentators who have clearly lost their minds. There’s nothing remotely similar to the Holocaust or the genocide aimed at Jews that occurred in Nazi Germany in the governor’s orders.

Meanwhile, some in the business community reacted with relief.

“Our first concern, as always, is protecting the health of Maine people, and we support the Governor’s gradual approach to reopening the economy and her [a]dministration’s commitment to working closely and collaboratively across economic sectors to determine how to do so safely. Maine businesses are eager to do their part to stem the tide on this virus, and we look forward to our continued partnership to that end,” said Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

Maine – and the world – are not yet free from the dangers posed by COVID-19. There is no cure, no vaccine and no effective treatment. The disease spreads easily and can cause horrendous deaths.

Nationally, the death toll in the U.S. alone has passed 58,000, with more than 1 million confirmed cases. There are likely many more of both that have yet to be accounted for.

There’s also been incredible pain from the economic dislocation. More than 100,000 Mainers have filed for unemployment in just five weeks, many businesses are barely hanging on and others won’t survive.

The toll in health and lives and dollars is almost beyond imagining.

And, as Mills said on Monday, “We are not out of the woods yet and likely will not be for sometime.”

Because of the governor’s actions and the actions of towns and cities around the state, I am convinced that the impact of COVID-19 on Maine has been limited so far. Things could have been much, much worse.

Along with the work of Dr. Nirav Shah, the head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, state agencies, health care providers and first responders, countless lives have been saved.

Maine is going to struggle with COVID-19 for sometime to come. The best case is that this summer will be unlike any that we have ever experienced. The worst case is that we will see a resurgence of the disease and be faced with renewed restrictions, increased caseloads and more deaths.

It’s easy to disagree with any single decision by the governor and her administration, particularly when you aren’t the person who must carry the weight of signing the orders and accepting the consequences and attacks.

The gradual four-stage plan to reopen the state makes sense. It eases us back in and leaves in places checks for Maine to react quickly if COVID-19 begins to rapidly spread again.



David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at