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The city of Bangor should issue an emergency order requiring “ shelter in place” now because we are in a life safety emergency. This means everyone must stay at home unless performing an essential service — though nice walks or runs are fully permitted at 6-foot distance.
However, no public meetings, nonessential shopping, social gatherings or unneeded travel are permitted.
The stark reality is that every hour we delay means more deaths and more overcrowded hospitals in the coming weeks. We in Bangor are especially at risk: Maine is the oldest state in the union.
Although there is a statewide emergency order, which restricted social gatherings and requires dine-in restaurants to close because of the spreading coronavirus, many Bangor-area businesses are still operating.
Unlike in California, where a shelter in place order is in force, some people in Maine are potentially spreading a deadly virus while they are buying clothes, books, tire rims and other nonessential items.
Many people in Bangor have been asked to continue to report for work. Because our city has not directed nonessential businesses to close, employees may contract this deadly virus and bring it home to family, some of whom are elderly or vulnerable due to illness or immunosuppression. Imagine the anguish of those workers who must choose between losing their job or risking harm to their loved ones.
The harsh reality is that Bangor and the state of Maine are permitting activities that endanger people’s lives. It is heartbreaking to contemplate avoidable deaths for neighbors, friends and family. Only government action can avoid what is happening in Italy, where doctors are being forced to decide who will get scarce ventilators.
We have an unusual advantage in our relative isolation. One of us (former Bangor mayor and state senator Sean Faircloth) publicly proposed on March 14 that Bangor require shelter in place. He organized a petition initially signed by more than 50 people, including public health leaders, business owners, scientists and some of the many who are at elevated risk of death from COVID-19, as the coronavirus is known. That grew on Facebook and was submitted to the Bangor City Council. We have waited a critical week since March 14. We cannot afford to wait another day.
The emergency order issued by the city on March 19, which closed and restricted many businesses, is insufficient in the face of this imminent danger.
The city of Bangor, under its emergency powers, should immediately issue an order to save lives by sheltering in place. Tragically, every hour that passes means more death and more overburdened hospitals with too few beds and not enough equipment to keep people alive.
Now is the time to issue this life-saving order. Now is the time to take thoughtful, well considered and immediate action to save lives.
We greatly appreciate the work our city has done, and we understand that there are many logistics to be addressed, but shelter in place helps, not hinders, other logistical planning. The challenge is real but surmountable. Currently 40 million people in California are under order to stay at home. If California can do it, so can we.
Hours mean lives. The city should not wait until Monday. The City Council can issue a proclamation on Saturday with its current emergency powers, which is better than Sunday, and Sunday is better than Monday.
Noah Nesin is a family doctor and public health advocate. Sean Faircloth is a former state senator and mayor of Bangor.