Rep. Richard Pickett: Maine Must Open Now

Rep. Richard Pickett (R – East Dixfield)

Following is an Op-Ed from Rep. Richard Pickett of East Dixfield.

Our Governor assumed full control of our state economy in the face of the coronavirus. The Governor’s stated purpose was to prevent the virus from spiraling out of control and overwhelming our hospitals and critical care facilities.

We needed time to obtain the necessary protective equipment for our first responders. We needed to obtain enough critical hospital equipment…like ventilators…to care for our fellow Mainers. The Mills plan ordered people to quarantine at home and for all businesses to close. Our state economy was virtually stopped. 

We have all done as the Governor asked. Over 100,000 Maine people were placed on the rolls of the unemployed, while every business not deemed essential by the Governor was closed. We waited weeks while scientists and medical experts learned about the virus we are facing. We have learned how the virus spreads. We have learned who is most at risk. We have learned how to treat it, and we are on the path to a vaccine. Maine people are ready to move on. The Governor, however, has other ideas. She just extended her emergency dictatorial power for another 30 days.

Folks, here are the facts. As of today, there have only been a total of 300 virus cases admitted to any Maine hospital since the virus began. There have been 102 deaths. Just under 85% of the deaths happened in the age group 60 and older. These rates are among the lowest in the country. If the Governor had paid attention to protecting our nursing homes earlier, the death toll could be much lower, and our elderly would not be condemned to dying alone without the comfort of family. 

Many of our unemployed families still have not received the benefits they deserve. At the same time, prisoners have been allowed to collect unemployment, both state and federal, while confined to jail. Our Governor refuses to discuss a coherent opening strategy with either republicans or democrats.

A few weeks ago, she announced that restaurants could open June 1st. Restaurants purchased food, hired people to clean their establishments, rehired employees, advertised their new opening dates, and prepared food in advance to serve to their customers. Four days before the opening, the Governor said she changed her mind and pulled the plug. Thousands of small business owners were left holding the bag and virtually bankrupt.

This irrational opening strategy must stop. No more hit or miss. No more phases. No more delays. I believe all of Maine is ready to open now. 

Here is a simple plan to reopen. 1) Open every business or entity that wishes to open. 2) encourage the use of masks when social distancing is not possible.  3) Trust that businesses will use common sense cleaning practices.

This plan utilizes safety recommendations offered by the scientific and medical communities, and by the Federal Center for Disease Control. Every entity that wishes to reopen must consider the safety protocols listed above.

The Governor needs to have more faith in Maine people and that they know what to do. All individuals must accept personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others. They know when to wear masks (if medically advisable) social distance, and use common sense cleaning techniques.

This plan puts the onus where it belongs. Maine people and Maine businesses will be in charge of their own fate. The plan can be implemented safely if the government, and this Governor, get out of the way and allow our democracy to function as it is designed to do.

The only job of government moving forward should be honest reporting of virus data and enforcement of the protocols in the manner listed above. For the final time, Open Maine now! Maine people are not stupid. They realize that if we continue to wait, as this Governor insists, Maine could succumb to total economic collapse and die as a state.

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