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Maine, like many other states, is seeing a troubling rise in coronavirus cases. Ninety-four new cases were reported on Thursday, the largest single day increase since the pandemic began in March.
Unlike that original surge in the early days of the pandemic, new cases have been rising in predominantly rural areas rather than Maine’s dense urban counties. Rural outbreaks have been tied to church services, nursing homes and schools.
Because of rising coronavirus case numbers across the country, some states and cities are reimposing restrictions on businesses and other activities. State and local governments are having to step in because of a lack of a coherent, coordinated federal policy to limit the spread of the virus.
On Wednesday, Gov. Janet Mills urged Mainers to “do better” to combat the spread of coronavirus. She did not call for a reversal of business reopenings or announce any further restrictions on crowd sizes or activities.
“Maine has done well,” she said during a virtual press conference. “”We have to do better. We have to stick to it. We must stick together.”
Even as the number of cases spiked, too many Americans, including the president, continue to downplay the importance of following public health guidelines, such as avoiding crowds and wearing a mask.
Seemingly oblivious to this reality, the Maine Republican Party is touting Trump’s ability to draw a crowd, while mocking the small groups that have attended events with Jill Biden, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The party should be reminded that the large crowd that gathered at Treworgy Family Orchards on Sunday violated state guidelines for crowd size and distancing, thereby putting attendees and everyone they come into contact with in coming days at risk for contracting coronavirus.
This chaotic disregard for the rules is not something to be proud of, especially when your candidate claims to be for “law and order.”
To reiterate, bringing out thousands of Mainers is against state policies aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus. State coronavirus rules limit outdoor gatherings to 100 people and mandate masks or other face coverings in places where it is hard to maintain distance from others.
The Biden campaign has held small, physically distanced events because it is following state guidelines, presumably not because it can’t draw a crowd.
In addition to having far too many people gathered at the orchard, people did not maintain 6-feet of separation and many attendees, including the president, did not wear masks. The president and several members of his inner circle have tested positive for coronavirus in recent weeks, as have several staff members of Vice President Mike Pence, who visited Maine for a campaign event in Hermon last week.
The owners of the orchard now say they regretted the size of Sunday’s event and its potential to spread coronavirus.
“We share the concerns of many over the size of the gathering, lack of social distancing and mask wearing during the event. We were told this would be a small, unpublicized, surprise, private, photo op which gave us no cause for alarm,” the business wrote in a message on its website on Tuesday.
“If something had changed within the White House or campaign planning for this visit, we were not made aware of it during the process. If we had it our way, the visit would have gone just as we had initially been told: an unannounced photo op with the President and his team,” the message said.
A USA Today analysis recently found that COVID-19 cases grew at a faster rate in five counties nationwide in the weeks after they hosted Trump rallies compared to the preceding weeks.
Mills was asked Wednesday why the state has not taken action against venues that have held large campaign events. The state has issued citations to two dozen Maine businesses for not following the state’s coronavirus protocols.
Mills said that the state is not “the COVID cops” and that the state’s actions are determined by the response from the entity hosting a gathering. She noted that the Treworgy orchard has “sort of apologized” for hosting Sunday’s event. Mills also said that her office has reached out to the White House about the ramifications of large gatherings but has not heard back.
“We expect compliance,” she said. “We hope for compliance, because otherwise this thing is going to be totally out of control.”
This reiterates the need for personal responsibility. You must protect yourself and others — as well as the state’s economy and schools — from coronavirus by avoiding large gatherings, wearing a mask, staying at least 6-feet apart from other people and by frequently washing your hands.