Good morning from Augusta. The Legislature’s education panel will hold hearings Monday on several bills expanding school curricula, targeting areas from African American studies and the history of genocide to industrial arts.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This is Facebook before Facebook was Facebook,” Kim Burns of South Portland said about a lost family photo album she and her siblings were reunited with after it was rescued from a junk store.
What we’re watching today
Maine wants younger people to be vaccinated by the start of the next school year. A federal advisory panel is likely to recommend the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for emergency use this week. Roughly 42,000 children — or nearly a quarter of Maine public school students this year — were in grades 7-9, which generally correspond to that age range. When you add that to the kids 16 and older already eligible, nearly half of Maine K-12 students may be eligible soon.
Maine has fully vaccinated 50 percent of its 16 and older population as of Friday, making it a leading vaccinator in the country. Children have largely experienced mild or no symptoms of COVID-19 than adults, although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in August that a third of children admitted to hospitals for the virus received intensive care.
Younger people, however, have begun representing more new cases of the virus nationally as older adults got vaccinated first. Many of those cases have been tied to school-related outbreaks, which in mid-April represented more than two-thirds of Maine’s active outbreak locations. But while schools have detected many outbreaks, transmission within them has been shown to be low.
Maine is preparing for the rollout now, saying in a planning document last week that it wants sites to prioritize kids 12-17. The state plan includes clinics in partnership with schools in June and July with the goal of having eligible students and staff vaccinated by the next school year.
The shift comes as public health officials work to pick up the pace of vaccinations as uptake has waned despite expanded eligibility. Health providers in Maine are already preparing, with Portland-based MaineHealth now allowing parents to pre-register eligible children.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine might ban his ‘KISMYAS’ vanity plate. The story behind it is sweeter than you think.,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “[Hundreds of risque vanity plates are at risk] after Maine lawmakers on the Transportation Committee advanced a bill in a 7-4 vote on Friday that would allow Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ office to refuse to issue or recall plates referencing a long list of off-limits topics from genitalia and sexual functions to race, gender, disabilities or slang referencing those things or other topics.”
A state attorney said crafting a law to bar profane plates and survive First Amendment challenges will be difficult. Bellows is one of the main backers of the measure targeting risque plates from Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, but Assistant Attorney General Chris Taub conceded that it would be “really impossible to craft a statute that addresses the contents of vanity plates in a way that will be completely free” from a legal threat. That threat is one of the reasons that American Civil Liberties Union of Maine — which Bellows ran years ago — is advocating against the measure.
— “Mental health patients’ confidential information was on state website more than 3 months,” Matt Stone, BDN: “The documents were available through a public database where anyone can review licensing information for health care agencies overseen by the Maine DHHS. The agency cut off access to that section of the database when it became aware of the confidential information. It has since restored access, and the confidential documents are no longer available on the website.”
— “Maine businesses contend with employees’ love of remote work as they plot office returns,” , Lori Valigra, BDN: “Most nonessential Maine businesses sent employees home in March 2020 as the state imposed pandemic restrictions. A little over a year later, offices are gradually reopening, with more usual flexibility. Many have polled employees about their comfort level with returning to the office and are allowing some remote work to continue, at least for a while. At the same time, workers have established new ways of working with each other from home, without the office commute, and they’d like to keep it that way.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by 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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