Editorial, March 28, 2019

Mar 28, 2019

Snail's pace

We have recently covered a lot (and by a lot we mean 14, and counting) of Waldo County town meetings. We’ve seen important town business settled in just a few hours in most cases. And, it got us wondering — what is the hold-up with making decisions about the future of Stockton Springs Elementary School?

The shuttered school has been empty for years, apparently growing mold because the building hasn’t had fresh air circulating inside on a regular basis. In that time, Regional School Unit 20’s Board of Directors has talked. And talked. And talked. And decided (mostly) nothing.

This is a mistake.

The longer the school sits vacant, the worse shape it will be in when the district finally decides what to do with it. It seems, at this point, a sale could finally be in the cards. However, we can’t imagine many interested buyers, based on the amount of work required even to make it safe to enter, let alone a usable space.

That’s a real shame.

Early on, when the school first was closed by a majority of voters, we think it’s safe to say there was significant interest from several parties in purchasing the property. But as time has worn on, that interest has certainly waned.

This day in history, then vs. now

On March 26, 1953, American medical researcher Dr. Jonas Salk announced on a national radio show that he had successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, the virus that causes polio. The crippling disease had just finished an epidemic year, infecting 58,000 people and killing 3,000.

The disease had been active in the United States for almost 60 years at that point. Before the vaccine, treatments were limited to quarantine and the infamous "iron lung," a coffin-like contraption that manually pumped a person's diaphragm by alternating the internal pressure of the sealed container.

Salk made his vaccine by killing several strains of the polio virus and injecting them into a healthy person’s bloodstream. This caused the immune system to create antibodies that would resist future exposure to the virus. He conducted the first human trials on former polio patients — and perhaps most notably on himself and his family.

In the first year after the vaccine was widely available, polio cases dropped to under 6,000.

In the debates over immunization, the polio vaccine goes relatively unquestioned. No one wants to be crippled, but enough people have survived the measles, whooping cough and chicken pox that we've in a sense inoculated ourselves to how dangerous they can be. This lax attitude about childhood diseases paired with pervasive misinformation and conspiracy theories about vaccines has led to high opt-out rates for immunization in Maine. The Portland Press Herald recently reported that Maine had the highest rate of infection for pertussis (whooping cough) in the nation last year, and eight times the national average. In 2017-18, Maine ranked seventh for parents of kindergarten students opting out of vaccinations.

And pertussis appears to be on the rise. In the first two months of 2019, the number of cases more than doubled from the same time period in 2018, the Press Herald reported.

If you had to have pertussis or polio, you would pick pertussis. But the disease is not merely a nuisance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pertussis can be serious and even deadly in young children and babies. Babies who contract it have a one-in-four chance of getting pneumonia, and one-in-100 will die.

For more information on vaccines and immunization schedules, visit: cdc.gov/vaccines.

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