Good morning from Augusta. There are six days until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We’re proud to join our brothers and sisters from across the country to support the peaceful transition of power and ensure the safety and well-being of our fellow Americans,” Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, Maine’s adjutant general, said in announcing up to 200 National Guard members from the state would join inauguration security efforts.
What we’re watching today
Coronavirus transmission in Maine remains as high as ever, and it’s another thing that could complicate the vaccine rollout. Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday that Maine would be advancing people over 70 and those with certain pre-existing conditions in its vaccine prioritization following new federal guidelines. But the logistics of vaccinating a significantly larger group of people — roughly 193,000 Mainers alone are 70 or older — will be difficult.
The virus continues to rage with a record 824 new cases reported by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday, including cases in all 16 counties. While Maine’s transmission of the virus still remains lower than nationwide, nine states have performed better over the past week, according to The New York Times — a sharp cry from the beginning of the pandemic, when Maine maintained one of the lowest virus rates in the country. The number of patients currently hospitalized with the virus here rose to 207, a new record.
Hospitalizations are another factor that could complicate the vaccine rollout. Last spring, Maine planned alternative care sites in Portland and Bangor to accommodate patients in the event that hospitals were overwhelmed. They were not and the sites were never used, but their size and locations would make them ideal spots for mass vaccinations, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah told reporters Wednesday.
But the high case load and hospitalizations make the state wary of committing to these alternative sites to administer vaccines, as there remains a chance they might be needed for their original intended use if Maine hospitals run out of capacity in the coming weeks or months.
Finding locations is not the only challenge Maine will face in ramping up to vaccinate more people. Officials on Wednesday pointed to allocations from the federal government that have consistently been lower than what the state expected. Increasing the speed of vaccine administration will require both an increase in supply and an efficient plan for distribution.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine Republicans continue spreading disinformation in wake of Capitol riot.” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Many Republicans, who are in the minority in both legislative chambers, now walk a narrow line as honest efforts to increase political participation and address longstanding concerns meld with falsehoods relating to Trump’s presidential loss, anger among some of his supporters and broad concerns about political violence in the aftermath of last week’s attacks.”
A slim majority supports Trump’s impeachment as Americans of different affiliations divide on the politics around the riot in polls. Maine’s two Democratic members joined their party alongside 10 Republicans when the House impeached President Donald Trump for the second time during his tenure on Wednesday. Nearly 53 percent of Americans support Trump’s removal, according to a FiveThirtyEight poll aggregator, but there are massive divisions.
For example, 85 percent of Democrats want Trump out, compared with 15 percent of Republicans. In a PBS Newshour/Marist poll released Friday, nearly nine out of 10 Americans opposed the riot, but 18 percent of Republicans supported it. While 63 percent of Americans say Trump deserves blame for the riot, 51 percent of Republicans say he deserves none. Two-thirds of Americans say the 2020 election results are accurate, but 72 percent of Republicans say they are inaccurate.
— “2nd stimulus checks may not boost Maine economy,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “A couple could qualify for $2,400 the last time, but only $1,200 this time, barely enough to buy the furniture or appliances they really want. That puts potential customers in the position of deciding whether to pay existing bills like electricity or splurge on something that perhaps can wait, [said Dave Shepherd, owner of The Major’s Furniture & Appliance in Farmingdale.]”
— “Fewer Maine high schoolers are applying to college,” Eesha Pendharkar, BDN: “Over the past few months, as high school seniors have been completing applications, they did not have the same opportunities as before the pandemic to speak with college students and professors, tour college campuses, meet with admissions staff who often spend the fall visiting high schools and work with their guidance counselors to figure out how to pay for college, according to University of Maine System administrators and high school counselors.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, Jessica Piper and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.
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