QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It kind of came at us like a freight train,” said Erin Herbig, a former state senator sworn in as Belfast town manager three days before Maine’s first coronavirus case was recorded last year. “This was literally my second week on the job. It was like, how do we do that? I will also say my councilors and my mayor immediately thought, how is this going to impact our community? How are we going to respond? How are we going to be there for people?”
What we’re watching today
Maine’s vaccine allocation is expected to pick up again next week, but unfilled appointments remain both a problem and an opportunity. As vaccine supply picks up nationally, Maine will be receiving nearly 55,000 vaccines for vaccine sites, a 20 percent increase from last week, according to the federal government. Allocations to retail pharmacies through a federal program are not yet known, but totaled 23,000 vaccines last week.
The increase is entirely made up of one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines, of which Maine will receive 20,600, up from 8,100 last week. That could enable Maine to vaccinate more than half of people in their 50s by the end of next week — only two-and-a-half weeks after the state began offering them vaccines. Maine will not be affected by a factory problem affecting 15 million Johnson & Johnson doses nationally, the state said.
The question will be whether Maine can fill appointments quickly enough to meet increased supply. A federal survey suggested vaccine hesitancy was not a significant problem here, with 80 percent of unvaccinated Maine adults saying they were still likely to get the vaccine. But health officials urged people in their 50s to schedule appointments this week as slots have not been going as fast as the state’s allocations have continued to increase.
The available appointments are not limited to one part of the state. For Bangor-area residents, Northern Light Health still has appointments at the Cross Insurance Center vaccine site on Saturday between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. The hospital system also has appointments available in Dover-Foxcroft, Blue Hill and Presque Isle tomorrow, as well as next week at sites in Ellsworth, Portland, South Portland and Fairfield.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine’s local politics has taken a distinctly national turn,” David Marino Jr., Bangor Daily News: “The shift, which experts say is driven by growing partisanship and newer trends in media consumption, means that officials across Maine’s nearly 500 municipalities and 16 county governments could pay less attention to less polarizing local issues in favor of national issues over which they have virtually no influence.”
— “Prosecutors: Mainer charged in Capitol siege threatened Chellie Pingree if she voted to impeach Trump,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “The Lebanon man charged in the Jan. 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol allegedly told a staffer in U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office that he wanted to start a war with China and threatened to ‘give it to her hard’ if she voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.”
— “Attorney general will not investigate Hope’s miscounted 2020 municipal election,” Lauren Abbate, BDN: “After discovering the errors, the town’s select board hired an attorney to conduct an investigation into the matter. The independent inquiry determined that the errors were largely due to a lack of knowledge regarding how to oversee an election process because the town office was short staffed at the time.”
A local official in Lincoln County resigned after making unproven allegations of voter fraud in a municipal election. Alna selectwoman Melissa Spinney will resign effective Friday, saying in a letter that she did not want to work with two newly elected members of the select board. Her decision to step down came after the local code enforcement officer visited several residents’ homes in the town of 700 to investigate their residency.
Downeaster to Rockland by 2035?
Amtrak released an aspirational map showing where it could expand service, with a long-considered extension from Brunswick up the midcoast in the mix. The only new Maine service in the national expansion that Amtrak said could come with more support from Congress would be an extension of the Downeaster — the Boston-Brunswick train — to Rockland. Other new links of regional interest would be between Boston and Concord, New Hampshire, and from St. Albans, Vermont, to Montreal.
A seasonal passenger train ran between Rockland and Brunswick until 2015. The Downeaster nearly piloted service to Rockland in 2018 before it fell through. While it is one of the more logical extensions of service here given the good condition of the tracks and recent community support, the level of interest in the service has been unclear and residents questioned proposed schedules friendlier for northbound travelers than southbound ones.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by 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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