Reopen to a new normal

By Doc Wallace | Apr 30, 2020

Gov. Janet Mills has asked for input from the public on what course Maine should take in the current virus condition. Here is mine.

Mainers, in their classic, stoic manner, have been troopers in their respect for the government-mandated requirements to stay at home, maintain “social distancing” and observe the shutdown of so-called non-essential services. According to the CDC, their admirable behavior has resulted in a national impact rank of 41 ― placing Maine in the bottom quartile of states in the metrics that measure coronavirus conditions in the country.

However, in spite of this enviable condition, Maine ranks eighth in the country for the most aggressive responses to the virus. Clearly, the time has come for the governor and her administration to begin easing the state back from the current lockdown. A stark reality of the new normal is that we will never, even with proven therapeutics and vaccines, achieve a zero-death rate, and that must be part of the health experts’ messaging to us. We need to push back on the conceit that we must all slavishly bow to “science.”

Maine’s lockdown is taking a disproportionate toll on citizens. The University of Chicago released a study that shows there is a lucky, stay-at-home 37% of workers who can do their jobs while practicing social distancing. Their study also shows that this fortunate workforce accounts for 46% of all wages. With a heavy self-employed count in Maine, these statistics are probably even more severe ― and, to add salt in their wounds, Maine has not yet approved this group for unemployment insurance even though the feds have funded it. The governor must accept that the new normal must strike a balance between lives and livelihoods. Hungry mouths, abject poverty, and economic paralysis cannot be the price of a cure.

Maine must be reopened ― albeit with common sense. President Trump’s guidelines for reopening are broadly proscriptive and do not ignore coronavirus science or health experts. These guidelines provide “gating criteria” and a phasing-in process that allow for a sensible return to an economy that will reflect the new normal. They provide for flexibility on the use of masks and testing procedures, while still urging avoidance of close contact with others ― especially at large-venue events. The guidelines also stress the protection of seniors and those with underlying illnesses.

Another large segment in Maine’s population needs Mills to accept the new normal ― those who are awaiting ”elective” or “non-essential” hospital procedures. Hip and knee replacements, as well as mastectomies are being delayed. Preventive screenings including mammograms, melanoma checks and colonoscopies have been canceled. At the same time, this medical lockdown is pushing hospitals and treatment centers into bankruptcy. Doctors and hospitals make most of their money on these elective procedures. Also, some doctors have pointed out that there will be a loss of acuity in surgical skills with a prolonged period of non-surgical activity. Now, for the sake of reserving medical services for future virus needs, the economic-health balance has been tilted to hurt both waiting patients and their hoped-for service providers.

There is nothing in this new normal that is political. However, there is a political backdrop to this situation that is unfortunate and unhelpful. The methodical, scientific, and economic phase-in of President Trump’s reopening of the country is being resisted by many on the left purely because of their disdain for the president and their desire to shift blame upon him. Americans want the plan to work ― to restore our health and regain our economy. Yet, fearful of any inkling of a Trump “win,” the left is scornful of the slightest hint of optimism.

Simply stated, Trump is not the virus. He did, indeed, act appropriately and decisively in January on closing immigration from China. Yes, he admitted Americans coming in from China ― but that’s a patriotic responsibility. And, yes, he and the administration did not have a ready-made stockpile of every possible piece of medical equipment necessary to combat the worst pandemic in modern times ― but who could have foreseen the unforeseeable? If a city-sized asteroid is discovered hurtling towards the USA, or if the moon falls out of its orbit, is it Trump’s fault for not being prepared?

Let’s do the right thing. We should follow the president’s task force plan and ask our governor ― especially in light of Maine’s enviable risk condition, to wisely and methodically end the lockdown and bring this state to a new normal ― “the way life should be.”

Another View is a Maine Press Association award-winning column written by Midcoast conservative citizens/writers Jan Dolcater, Ken Frederic, Paul Ackerman, Doc Wallace and Dale Landrith Sr.


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Comments (6)
Posted by: John Alden Shepard | May 04, 2020 09:04

Yes, you're right, Mr. Wallace, you didn't use the phrase "delicious irony" in this column, you used it in an April 28th Free Press column in which you dismissed me as one of "Covid Crazy Three". I thought you'd remember what you wrote so recently, my mistake.

By the way, I assume in using CAPS you are essentially yelling? No need for bombast, Mr. Wallace, we're all grown-ups here and cheapening the discourse through such tactics only makes you seem out of control.

Posted by: Dale E. Landrith Sr. | May 02, 2020 11:13

And how many businesses will be gone by 2021.  Many if not most businesses do not have the resources to stay closed for extended periods and remain viable.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | May 02, 2020 09:24

2021 is going to be a banner year for Maine businesses because we have done what Dr.  Shah and Governor Mills suggested in 2020. ;)

Posted by: RALPH WALLACE | May 02, 2020 08:28

Well, Mr. Shepard, YOU need to "read what I write." Nowhere in this column do I use the phrase, "delicious irony." And - to help you understand the term, THAT is ironic.

Posted by: John Alden Shepard | May 01, 2020 13:15

Mr. Wallace doesn't seem to read what he writes, unless he revels in "delicious irony." While commending stoic Mainers for adhering to CDC distancing and shut-down guidelines, he acknowledges we have minimized our contagion rate to 41st, nationally. He then insists that now we MUST relax these aggressive responses, ranked 8th in the country according to "Doc", immediately for the good of all, even though we had 39 new cases of Covid diagnosed April 30th, the greatest single day increase in three weeks.

Next, Mr Wallace insists that there is nothing political about "this new normal" we are facing. Then he proceeds to politicize the situation by vilifying "the left" for questioning President Trump's multiple failures in acknowledging the threat in a timely manner, responding in a systematic way, or even accurately describing the situation in press briefings.

Our governor has done these things properly and responsibly while following advice from health officials and contagion experts. It's clear that Trump did not "slavishly bow to science" in implying that we might experiment with ingesting disinfectants as a cure. Governor Mills has "bowed to science" in adhering to health experts' advice and minimizing the effects of the pandemic on Mainers. Since the virus is apparently continuing to spread and infect ever more citizens, we'd probably be better off in "slavishly bowing" to science rather than racing to reopen everything too soon and risk a resurgence of this disease.

Just because some of us may be reaching the limit of our attention spans, public health may still be more important than shopping, "Doc."

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | May 01, 2020 12:54

You forgot to mention Doctor Don's advice to inject Clorox or Lysol as preventatives.

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