You have probably noticed we have been somewhat quiet on Governor Mills’ recent orders that asked, then directed Maine people to stay home in the past few weeks. To be clear, we believed that in such a time of crisis, too much political communication around the COVID-19 issue might cause confusion and harm and that it was important for public health information not be filtered through a partisan lens.
Instead, we left the White House and Governor Mills’ administration to relay most information directly to you through the daily communications they have provided.
We have been patiently watching and hoping for the best.
After what we saw from Governor Mills last week when she announced her stay home order extension with confusing and to some, destructive, new restrictions, I can only imagine the stress many of you are feeling. I am personally sharing your pain, having been forced to close both of my dental practices and furlough 30 employees.
Then yesterday we learned there was a new committee being formed that would issue a final report by December 1 – but Maine’s economy is in crisis right now.
Nobody wants to see harm befall anyone, from this virus or anything else.
Unfortunately, our opinion on the new restrictions and muddled, broken roll out of the Governor’s reopening plan is that the damage being done to Maine’s economy will create many new problems, some of them permanent.
Rather than slowly bringing our economy back to normal, we are seeing Maine be driven through a complicated maze of confusing new restrictions toward a “new normal” imagined by a small group of individuals in Augusta.
The “new normal” we are on the path toward is one of crushing poverty, higher rates of drug addiction, domestic violence and government dependence.
Governor Mills’ plan has no clearly defined goals to work toward. The people of Maine are not being told what our goals for a full reopening are, or when it might happen. We are not being told what data the state is relying upon to make decisions, and the Maine CDC is refusing to release town-by-town data on confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Mainers always pull together in times of crisis to help those in our own communities. We can accomplish amazing things when given a clear goal and the proper information. But we have not been provided clear goals or consistent data to reach any goal as of today.
For all the talk about relying upon science, Maine’s current “plan” is shockingly lacking in actual science. It feels more like hysteria is masquerading as science.
Maine people have been denied vital health care such as restorations to fix broken teeth, surgeries, counseling and many, many other services. Our places of healing have been closed – yet abortion clinics have continued operating.
Child abuse reports are reportedly in sharp decline, but we know so many families are under greater distress right now than they were before this all began.
Church doors are locked by mandate of the state and no options are available for them to open their doors.
As you read this, two Maine hospitals teeter on the verge of bankruptcy and other hospitals across the state have furloughed large numbers of workers. Those two hospitals on the verge of bankruptcy are in rural areas mostly untouched by the virus and with the most need.
Virtually any place Mainers usually can go for spiritual, physical or emotional health and healing is unable to open and help them.
The very human, very real impact of our state economy being shut down is just beginning to come into view.
Now, we are seeing Maine’s government, just as it botched the response to Maine’s unemployment crisis leaving tens of thousands with no regular income, also struggle to manage and implement the so-called “reopening” of Maine.
The plan lacks clear goals. It is heavy on vague ideas for the future and lacking in actionable data. While it relies heavily on saying the plan “contemplates” things in the future, it’s clear that it did not adequately contemplate the implementation of phase 1 or the scope of damage to Maine’s economy.
Aside from the illogical decision making and potential destruction of tens of thousands of small businesses, the actual process of opening some businesses is nearly impossible. This process needs to be completely overhauled. Even in dentistry, there are no guidelines on how to reopen and no help on acquiring PPEs, even as many of us donated our reserves to nursing homes and other facilities in need.
There are over 250,000 small businesses in Maine and we recently learned only a few hundred have been approved to reopen almost a week after this new process began.
Instead of issuing standard safety protocols for all businesses in an industry to follow, Maine DECD is requiring businesses to go through a bureaucratic process that will overwhelm the department while Maine’s economy continues to struggle. This is wrong!
You do not need a doctorate in public administration to see that this system can’t possibly be managed in a fair or efficient manner for tens of thousands of small businesses across Maine.
Some of our fellow Mainers are now in their second month of restrictions, loss of income and loss of freedom despite the data showing their region has little to no problems with COVID-19.
I have no doubt that if there was an outbreak in one of these rural counties, Governor Mills would not have shut down Portland – so it stands to reason that the opposite should also be true.
This message, however, is not just a list of grievances about Maine’s response to COVID-19. It is also a call to action for Governor Janet Mills, Speaker Sara Gideon, Senate President Troy Jackson, all other lawmakers and you, the people of Maine.
We urge the following, either through actions taken by Governor Janet Mills or through a reconvening of our Legislature in a bipartisan manner:
– Hit the reset button on the complicated, unworkable four phase plan announced by Gov. Janet Mills.
– Clearly articulate goals for Maine to fully reopen and publish the corresponding data at Maine CDC website to allow the public to monitor progress.
– Allow for county level regional re-openings in rural counties that have low COVID-19 rates.
– Reopen health care, counseling facilities and houses of worship with social distancing requirements as soon as possible statewide; and yes that includes dental offices.
– Scrap the individual business approval process through Maine DECD and allow all businesses to open on an industry-wide basis when approved. Do not allow the application and “checklist” process to pick winners and losers.
– Adopt a general principle of trust in the people and small businesses of Maine to function in a safe and healthy manner; we are after all Mainers.
– Adopt a general principle that a balance must be found between allowing Maine people to make a living while we work through the COVID-19 pandemic.
– Adopt a general principle that our goal is a return to normal, not a “new normal” chosen by Governor Janet Mills and Dr. Nirav Shah. A complete return to normal need not happen tomorrow, but a return to normal is not something that can be denied on the whims or vision of a select few in Augusta.
– Add resources to expedite unemployment claims, there are no excuses for the delay of critical help to the neediest in our state. We have seen enough of this disaster. If we have to hire people to sit in a room and hand write the checks to get people some help, let’s do it.
Freedom matters. The power of government has been brutally efficient in destroying jobs across Maine and woefully inadequate in delivering assistance to those whose jobs have been destroyed.
We hope Governor Mills would take a more balanced and straightforward approach than what we have seen and restore a balance for the good of Maine.
The time is now to speak out to Speaker Sara Gideon, Senate President Troy Jackson and Governor Janet Mills and call for a reset of the complicated mess that has been created. Our Maine Legislature should reconvene and work to create a more balanced reopening plan that allows our people to heal, work and help one another in a safe manner!
GOVERNOR JANET MILLS
SPEAKER SARA GIDEON
(207) 865-9593 or (207) 287-1300
SENATE PRESIDENT TROY JACKSON
(207) 436-0763 or (207) 287-1500
Dr. Demi Kouzounas