Good morning from Augusta. All Mainers aged 16 and older officially become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines today. Here’s our guide to setting up an appointment.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Breathing and self-care is really important,” said Ruby Day, a Belfast teenager who overcame generational poverty and trauma to succeed in school. She now has her pick of nine colleges. “And you’ve got to really just do things in life. I kind of had to force myself.” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
Increasing allocations of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could help Maine combat geographic inequities in COVID-19 vaccine distribution as the state expands eligibility. All Mainers aged 16 and older officially become eligible to get vaccinated today. But vaccination rates among already eligible groups vary widely by county. In Cumberland County, 88 percent of residents aged 60 and older have had at least one vaccine dose, according to state data. In Piscataquis County, that figure is just 66 percent.
But rural counties in Maine are making up ground with the one-shot vaccine approved in late February. Prior to its authorization, health officials touted the J&J vaccine as easier to administer in remote parts of the state, since it is only one dose and does not require ultra-cold storage.
Now, Maine’s allocations back that up. In Cumberland County, the J&J vaccine accounts for only 3.7 percent of people who have had at least one dose. But that figure is 18 percent in Somerset County and 22 percent in Washington County, helping narrow that gap in vaccination rates between those counties and southern Maine over the past month.
A roving clinic will give out the J&J vaccine over the next two months in more rural areas. The clinic, purportedly the second of its kind in New England, will be using the one-shot vaccines to reach people who might have a hard time accessing shots otherwise, joining other providers including Hannaford that are giving out the one-shot vaccine exclusively. All Maine pharmacy chains participating in a federal vaccine program got some allocation of the J&J vaccine this week as the state’s supply has continued to increase dramatically.
The traveling clinic, which is part of a federal-state partnership, will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will travel to Oxford, Windham, Biddeford, Fryeburg, Turner, Waterville, Old Town, Milbridge, Calais, Madawaska and Auburn through June 12. Call the state’s vaccination hotline at 1-888-445-4111 to schedule an appointment.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine tells 90K who signed up for COVID-19 vaccines on state site to pursue other options,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The idea for the system was to create a waiting list for people who might get vaccinated through providers who do not have a robust scheduling system. Procurement forms for the system indicate Maine authorized $4.4 million on call center services to help with pre-registration and nearly $800,000 on a scheduling service.”
— “Maine regulator to investigate CMP’s issues linking to solar projects,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “The unanimous vote from the three-member Maine Public Utilities Commission was in response to a February request by the Maine Renewable Energy Association and the Coalition for Community Solar. Gov. Janet Mills, who is pushing a climate action plan that includes renewable energy, also asked the commission to launch an investigation after CMP said more than 100 substations may require costly and unexpected modifications to interconnect hundreds of megawatts of new solar projects across the state spurred by a 2019 law.”
— “Disputed ballots in Hudson election lands selectmen’s race in court,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “Concerns about how the small Penobscot County town of Hudson conducts elections have arisen for the third time in less than a year, most recently over a list that identified 15 voters who requested absentee ballots in a municipal election.”
A set of Republican-led bills looking to tighten voting access will be heard in the virtual State House today. The bills would all require people to produce a form of photo identification to vote, something that the state does not require. Acceptable forms of ID could include a driver’s license, passport, or a concealed handgun permit if it has a picture. A bill from Sen. Marianne Moore, R-Calais, would go further, prohibiting absentee voting for people unless they are unable to vote in person and stripping prisoners of voting rights. All of the proposals are unlikely to succeed in a Democratic-controlled Augusta but are up for public hearings at 10 a.m.
Pingree, King, Collins visit BIW with Navy secretary
Three members of Maine’s congressional delegation hosted the acting U.S. Navy secretary at Maine’s two naval shipyards. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King toured Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Bath Iron Works with Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker on Tuesday. It was part of the new acting secretary’s review of U.S. shipyards and comes as the Maine delegation pushes the administration of President Joe Biden to follow a 2017 law establishing a goal of having a 355-ship Navy, up from 298 now.
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper, Caitlin Andrews 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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