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In an apparent rejection of Gov. Janet Mills’ phased reopening of Maine’s economy, the Calais City Council is voicing support for businesses to open their doors now even if they are not slated to open under the state’s plan.
Councilors approved a motion Thursday night stating that the council “does not have a problem if any private-sector business wants to open up in this community and earn a living to support their family,” the Portland Press Herald reports.
There are many businesses in Washington County that are allowed to open starting Monday, if they’re not open already. But hotels, bars, nail salons and some other businesses are not yet permitted to open under the state’s current rules.
“We need to let our businesses run and make money and support their families,” Councilor Michael Sherrard can be heard saying in a video recording of the council meeting. “And we need to get the Little League going, we need to get the rec department going, we need to get everything going and get back and use common sense. Let the parents decide whether or not they want their kids to participate. If they don’t, that’s fine. But the entire population cannot suffer like this because of something that is less lethal than the flu that we get every year.”
Health experts have warned that COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is actually more dangerous than the flu. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 24,000 and 62,000 U.S. residents have died from the flu during the 2019-2020 season. In comparison, COVID-19 has killed more than 87,000 U.S. residents in recent months.
Sherrard cited Washington County’s low rate of reported infection as a justification for the motion, according to the Portland Press Herald. The county has so far only had two confirmed cases out of 1,603 statewide.
State health officials have warned that those figures do not reflect the actual scope of the pandemic in Maine, since many people have not been tested and some of the infected do not show symptoms.
Sherrard said that “everybody has a personal responsibility to protect themselves” and that at-risk people should take whatever steps they need to keep themselves safe, the Press Herald reported. Councilors have also recommended that businesses follow state health guidelines when they reopen.
Watch: Why Maine is tracking number of tests instead of people tested