Following is an op-ed from Rep. Rich Cebra of Naples.
Like most Mainers, I deferred to the scientists and health experts when the coronavirus arrived in the United States and to a lesser extent, Maine. My fellow legislators acted quickly on COVID-19 related legislation, tabled other items, and went home to shelter in place and practice social distancing.
Even two weeks ago, I believed that continuing the stay at home order made sense.
The situation has changed. The science, data and lessons learned from social distancing have continually evolved. We know a lot more than we did, days, and weeks ago. Maine is one of the states least impacted by the health threat of the coronavirus, but Maine is the state most at risk economically.
I watched the Governor’s announcement hoping that she would recognize that the economic and social devastation posed by COVID-19 is now far greater than the health risk to the population at large, outside of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, medical settings, and those with underlying health conditions.
Governor Mills has presented us with the dangerous proposition that we must choose either public health or economic health. The facts, data and science now indicate that it is not an either-or situation, we can address both at once. To do otherwise is irresponsible and downright dangerous.
Martin Luther King, Jr. once said: “Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyzes us.”
Back in March, when faced with an unknown virus and situation, Mainers and the Governor acted on normal fear in order to protect us from the worst-case scenario. It is now clear that the Governor is currently operating out of abnormal fear, not science, data or common sense.
Operating out of abnormal fear clouds judgement and prevents sequential logic. It can also blind people to other, more serious dangers.
Right now, the most pressing danger is the health, safety, security and well-being that a functioning economy provides.
I am contacted daily by people with no job, no savings, crushing debt and bills that need to be paid. To add insult to injury, some of them have tried hundreds of times unsuccessfully to file for unemployment.
Has any attention been given to how this lock down is affecting the Developmentally Disabled in our communities, and Special Needs Kids not getting desperately needed services, not to mention the segment of our population that struggles with mental health issues? It’s a horrible situation! There is a huge hidden cost, not just monetary, to a lot of people because of this unscientific lock down based on the one size fits all government orders.
After six weeks, the government cannot effectively run the unemployment system. Now it wants to impose a one-size-fits-all approach on our huge, diverse state AND pick economic winners and losers! You can go to this store, but not that store, “because Augusta says so.”
Small businesses and their customers know how to operate safely. Those who have been deemed essential have done so for six weeks. Our most vulnerable citizens, and their loved ones, know how to minimize their own risks at this point.
Maine’s small business economy relies on seasonal tourism, in some instances, to sustain them an entire year. Failure to prevent economic devastation this summer will impact Maine and its way of life for years to come.
The Governor needs to trust Maine citizens and small businesses while focusing on the small subset of our population that is at high risk of the coronavirus and to a lesser extent, the flu.
I cannot begin to mention all the inconsistencies, flawed logic, and downright foolishness in the 4 month painfully slow restart proposed by Governor Mills.
We’re watching this administration needlessly train wreck our state’s economic future by indecision and hedging, with unresponsive delays and non-answers. Governor Mills needs to stop coming out every day to say we don’t know, we’ll see, maybe tomorrow. She needs to act decisively, according to the actual science, data, and with confidence in the abilities and common sense of Maine people.
To suggest that we are going to close off the Maine-based tourist economy for the rest of this summer is a cure worse than the virus the Governor is trying to avoid. I have heard from many of our local small business owners, restaurants, campgrounds, seasonal cottages, seasonal homeowners, and small to mid-sized retail shops, and many will not be able to survive under the Governor’s plan.
We small business owners are some of the most responsible members of our communities and can do what it takes to keep customers safe AND keep our economy from collapsing. WE CAN DO BOTH! This is not a one size fits all situation nor is it simply an either-or situation, and it requires a nuanced and balanced response that we are not getting from Augusta at this time.
There is still time to save the businesses, jobs, and lives that will be destroyed this summer.
Trust Maine people and Maine small business owners by opening Maine now!
Rep. Richard Cebra (R – Naples) is serving his sixth non-consecutive term in the Maine House of Representatives. He serves on the Transportation Committee.
During his past service in the House he served as the House Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation; he also served on the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government; Chairman of the House Ethics Committee; he was named to the Joint Select Committee on Joint Rules for the 125th Legislature; and also served on the Motor Vehicle Advisory Board and the Maine Turnpike Budget Sub-committee.