Good (windy) morning from Augusta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “A common response from well-intentioned people was that folks could not believe that something like this could have happened,” said Ophelia Hu Kinney, a United Methodist faith leader in Portland, said about the shooting deaths of eight people, six of them Asian women, in Georgia on Tuesday. “I think one of the pitfalls of sharing that is that it could be taken very literally — as in, you cannot believe that something like this could happen.”
What we’re watching today
Coronavirus cases in Maine have been ticking back upward even as the state’s vaccine rollout continues to accelerate. The trend comes as overall cases in the U.S. have continued to decline, though Maine and its New England neighbors are also seeing cases increase, according to a New York Times tracker.
The seven-day average of new cases here rose to 204 on Thursday, up from 172 a week ago. Though figures place Maine squarely in the middle of U.S. states in terms of population-adjusted new cases over the past week. But it is still better than every other New England state as the region has comparatively struggled of late.
Hospitalizations have been climbing in Maine too, with the seven-day average at 79 on Thursday compared to 73 a week ago. The virus is spreading more among young people, which is expected with older people predominantly being vaccinated, but the rising hospitalizations indicate that vulnerable individuals are still contracting the virus. The number of people hospitalized now remains higher than the peak the state reported in the spring of 2020.
Maine has seen fewer outbreaks in long-term care facilities, which were one of the first groups to get vaccinated last December, indicating the vaccine is effective in reducing spread. But not enough of the general population is vaccinated for that effect to carry over — only 15.6 percent of Mainers have had a second vaccine dose (or a one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine), according to state data. For Mainers aged 70 and older, that figure is 56 percent.
Vaccinations in Maine have continued to speed up, with nearly 100,000 doses administered over the past week, according to state data. The state’s allocation from the federal government is expected to increase only slightly next week to doses for 35,190 new people. That means vaccines alone are unlikely to halt the virus in the short term — even as Maine is set to loosen indoor capacity restrictions next week in an early phase of Gov. Janet Mills’ reopening plan.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Offshore wind could meet all Maine’s electricity needs by 2050,” Lori Valigra, Bangor Daily News: “Last November, the Democratic governor revealed a plan to create the nation’s first floating offshore wind research farm between 20 and 40 miles offshore in the Gulf of Maine. Mills met with the British consul general to New England on Tuesday, partly as a follow-up to an agreement the United Kingdom and Maine signed in December to advance clean energy to meet their respective climate goals.”
The state official in charge of Central Maine Power’s corridor land lease was grilled by lawmakers on Thursday. The testimony of Andy Cutko, director of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, came a day after a judge ruled the state must review its lease of a 33-acre parcel to be used for the $1 billion corridor. At a public hearing on a bill that would tighten restrictions on leases, lawmakers on the conservation panel pressed Cutko on the process that led to the leases. At one point, Rep. Joseph Underwood, R-Presque Isle, asked Cutko to identify the state officials involved in recent decisions on the lease signed in 2014 and revised last year. Cutko said he would not because it was not “germane to the litigation or the legislation.”
— “Maine State Police says it didn’t award ‘Trooper of the Year’ as rebuke to Black Lives Matter,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “The Maine State Police said it has looked into and has not substantiated allegations that its 2019 Trooper of the Year award was given to a trooper accused of racial profiling during multiple traffic stops as a rebuke to the Black Lives Matter movement.”
A police officer in a Hancock County town quit last month, saying the department was “an embarrassment to law enforcement.” The town of Gouldsboro ordered Chief John Shively to undergo sexual harassment training last fall after he was accused of sexually harassing another female employee. It came amid disagreements with his two officers, one of whom was fired and then given his job back and the other who quit after being disciplined and resisting the town manager’s attempts to mediate his problems with Shively.
— “COVID-19 swab maker from Piscataquis County to open plant in Tennessee,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “It’s the latest expansion for the family-owned medical supplier that has grown exponentially over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic because it is one of two companies in the world that produce the nasopharyngeal swabs necessary for COVID-19 testing.” Here’s your soundtrack.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper, Michael Shepherd and Caitlin Andrews. 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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