Hello, this is State Representative Sue Austin from Gray with the Republican Weekly Radio Address.
We are quickly approaching Labor Day and the end to the Summer Season here in Maine. When it comes to weather I cannot think of a summer more generous in sunshine and warmth. Unfortunately it is also a summer of missed opportunities.
We have now been living in a state of emergency since March 15th and despite continued low and declining morbidity and mortality rates we continue to see the use of arbitrary rules imposed in the name of public health.
Box stores seemingly have no limit to the number of people that can be admitted, restaurants must operate at 50% capacity, bars cannot be open and churches no more than 50. We were pleased that the Governor expanded out door gatherings to 100 people but again despite repeated calls for the data and bench marks used to make decisions none is provided.
We have data from cases now, not just model projections and we continue to learn more about the virus every day. As we gain this knowledge we should be operating from the position of creating the least restrictive environment possible instead of picking winners and losers. It is time to reduce the limitations imposed on the citizens of Maine and better reflect the data of actual cases in Maine. We have the results of months of testing and the ability to compare policies imposed in Maine with those elsewhere. States with the same restrictions as ours have higher rates which suggests that it is not our policy choices keeping our numbers manageable.
South Dakota has almost no restrictions in place and according to the New York Times has a lower mortality rate as a percentage of total cases than Maine. Total deaths as a percentage of total population has South Dakota’s mortality rate at 0.02% and Maine at 0.01%. Our policies should be driven by results not by fear.
The data no longer justifies the continued loss of businesses and jobs, the increasing substance and domestic abuse, the failing mental health of Mainers and increasing suicide rates. Why do these considerations seem to be absent from the Governor’s policy making.
Consider these facts in the face of her stubbornness and inability to weigh what needs to happen now in response to COVID-19 cases:
-Maine has the 48th lowest COVID-19 case count in the country.
-Maine’s 7 day positivity rate (described as one the most important testing metrics) is now 0.78%. This is nearly three times lower than the 7 day rate two months ago (2.1% on June 21). For comparison, the national average for PCR positivity is 7.5%.
-Maine’s 24 hour positivity rate is .44%. According to the Governor, “Proof positive that small businesses and individuals across the state are protecting themselves and others…”
-7 individuals with COVID-19 are currently hospitalized, with 1 on a ventilator and 1 in critical care. In May, these numbers peaked at 60 hospitalizations, 27 ventilated and 13 in critical care.
-Based on July 30, the last time ventilator and critical care capacity was reported on the CDC website, there are now more than 700 ventilators and 144 critical care beds available.
Despite these facts the Governor continues to favor unilateral decision making that will affect us all for years to come.
The new grant program unveiled Thursday by the Governor to help small businesses is a good use of federal CARES money, and helps supplement the PPP program written by Senator Susan Collins. However, since the money is being used months after Maine received it from Washington, countless small businesses have already closed their doors for good.
Just this past week, the Governor announced that departments should identify cost reductions totaling 10%. That action should have been taken back in March when everyone knew state finances were going to be severely impacted by shutting the economy down to bend the COVID-19 curve.
Instead the Governor waited 5 months before doing what most families and businesses did right away. The Governor then goes on to say that department heads are not allowed to eliminate any programs.
With a projected negative impact of $1.4 billion over the next three years, how on earth does the Governor think that all programs are exempt from consideration?
Shouldn’t we use the data to get businesses open as much as possible to help reduce the budget shortfall through revenue generating activities?
The Governor and her Democrat Majorities in the Legislature pushed through a budget nearly 1 billion dollars more than the last proposed by the previous administration. It used up the entire surplus created by the LePage administration with little concern given to the Rainy day fund.
All of this well before COVID 19. The Governor prevents revenue generation and will lay the blame for the state’s lack of funds at the feet of COVID19 even though the cupboard was bare before she shut down Maine’s economy.
Don’t expect to hear anything about this from the Maine news media. With the exception of television stations that interview people in crisis, Maine’s two largest newspapers and “public” broadcasting network have been missing in action.
Over and over they decline to cover news of regular Maine citizens harmed by the prolonged shutdown.
This has been Representative Sue Austin with the Weekly Republican Radio Address.