May 27, 2020
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As coronavirus comes to Maine, president’s urgency, call for unity, is welcomed

Doug Mills | The New York Times via AP
Doug Mills | The New York Times via AP
President Donald Trump speaks in an address to the nation from the Oval Office at the White House about the coronavirus Wednesday, March, 11, 2020, in Washington.

As of noon Thursday, March 12, test results show that one Mainer has tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.

Gov. Janet Mills announced Thursday that the first presumptive positive case of coronavirus in Maine has been found in a 50-year-old woman in Androscoggin County. Maine was one of the last states to have a case of the illness.

Mills immediately announced steps her administration is taking to slow the spread of the virus. She proclaimed an insurance emergency, which will improve access to care and require private health insurance plans to cover costs related to coronavirus testing. The governor also suspended all non-essential out-of-state work travel by state employees and is recommending that non-essential large, indoor gatherings of 250 attendees or more be postponed.

Against this backdrop of the continued spread of the illness officially called COVID-19, President Donald Trump’s speech to the nation Wednesday night was both terrifying and reassuring. It was terrifying that the man who just days ago blamed Democrats and the media for trying “to inflame” the coronavirus outbreak, and suggested that the virus was “ very much under control” and that the number of cases in the U.S. was going down, was now outlining the “unprecedented response” his administration was taking to try to slow the spread of the illness. It was also somewhat reassuring that the president finally seems to understand the severity of the situation and is following the advice of top officials who better grasp the dangers of coronavirus, both to the American people and to our economy.

[Do you have questions about the coronavirus? Ask us here.]

“This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” the president said during his address from the Oval Office. “I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus.”

The measures the president outlined including stopping much air travel from Europe and “emergency action” to provide financial relief to workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to coronavirus. The president did not say what that action would be.

Trump said he had met with leaders of the health insurance industry and they agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments. They also agreed to extend insurance coverage to these treatments and to prevent surprise medical billing, the president said.

Trump also called on the Treasury Department to defer tax payments for some Americans and businesses and for the Small Business Administration to issue loans to help businesses overcome temporary financial problems caused by the coronavirus.

The president also repeated the important message that while coronavirus will be minor for many, it carries huge risk for elderly Americans. He emphasized the public health message of frequent hand washing, social distancing and working from home.

“If we are vigilant — and we can reduce the chance of infection, which we will — we will significantly impede the transmission of the virus. The virus will not have a chance against us,” Trump said in a speech that also included rosy claims about America’s ability to quell the disease and unnecessarily cast blame on other countries for failing to do enough to stop its spread.

[Here are answers to questions from BDN readers about the new coronavirus]

“We are all in this together,” he said. “We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship and unify together as one nation and one family.” To this end, Congress should take necessary action to speed relief, both in terms of health care and financial support, to American families and businesses, before it leaves Washington for a recess, as Sen. Susan Collins has suggested.

The tone of unity was perhaps the president’s most important message, and where he can lead by example. Rather than downplay the risks from coronavirus, often contradicting health experts in his own administration, or take to Twitter to attack political foes, Trump should largely step back and let the experts lead the American response.

Watch: What you need to know about handwashing during coronavirus

 


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