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DOW: COVID-19 is not going away, we must prepare for a future that includes its presence

Senator Dana Dow is the Maine Senate Republican Majority Leader.

Coronavirus is not going away. We must prepare for a future that includes its presence.

Hello, I am Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow of Waldoboro.

I have heard a lot of people asking a lot of questions lately. The volume of calls, emails, and texts is larger than any of us in Augusta can ever remember seeing.

The one question I do not hear people asking very often is perhaps the most important one.

“How long?”

We talk about clamping down businesses in Maine, but for how long?

We won’t allow tourists to come into Maine, a state whose economy is absolutely reliant on summer tourism, but when will we lift this ban?

We are watching our state’s economy collapse in faster than slow motion, but how long will we watch this without acting?

The answer I hear, more often than not, is something along the lines of “until the pandemic is under control.” And that answer is usually given with a sense that this moment is not more than a couple of months away.

This, it seems clearer to me by the day, is a poorly contrived estimate.

It is very likely that COVID-19 is something that will be with us in some form for a long time.

Since we need to learn to adapt to life in the presence of the coronavirus, doesn’t it make sense to begin making that adjustment now, rather than wait six months or a year to realize we started too late?

We must start learning to live with COVID-19 today.

If the coronavirus is still with us this fall, next year, or for years to come, our current tact of restricting business will have destroyed Maine’s economy forever without any tangible benefit. This result would be devastating to small businesses and the hundreds of thousands of Maine families who rely on them.

Every day I hear from people who are losing everything they have ever had. They are terrified of the effect that state-imposed restrictions are having on their families. They are depleting their cash reserves, exhausting their small business loan opportunities, and spending the savings they built over a lifetime.

If these restrictions continue through the summer tourist season, many thousands of lives will be destroyed financially and there will be no way to get them back. And for what? So that we can delay for a few months the process of facing the inevitable future?

We need to learn to trust the owners of our local businesses at least as much as we trust Walmart. I feel confident that a local restaurant is just as capable of following CDC guidelines as the grocery store chain down the street.

There are ways that we can strike a balance that allows businesses to open while they maintain, even improve, the health and safety of our friends and neighbors, without fear of spreading the infection.

This is not an all or nothing choice. We can begin to allow local businesses to reopen while we maintain our strident demand that people in our communities remain safe from a viral infection.

Let’s not put ourselves in a situation where we look back a year from now and say to ourselves, “We should have started doing this last year.”

As difficult as it may seem, we need to adapt to a world with a new virus that is potentially deadly to each of us, and hoping it goes away is not how we can best prepare for that future.

Not if we want to have any kind of a future.

Again, I am State Senator Dana Dow. Let’s work together to restart our economy while we also work to continue to be safe and be well.

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