Good morning from Augusta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Jo canceled me. She sorta blocked me and all that,” Maine novelist Stephen King said of his relationship with British author J.K. Rowling, with whom he feuded last year after he objected to some of her tweets and voiced support for transgender women.
What we’re watching today
It is the end of an era of vaccination efforts in Maine with the state’s largest vaccination sites winding down. MaineHealth’s Scarborough Downs location closed Thursday, while Northern Light Health’s Cross Insurance Center site in Bangor is expected to give its final doses next Thursday. Northern Light’s Portland Expo clinic also is expected to close on June 18. Large sites in Sanford and Auburn are still open.
Instead, providers are shifting into smaller clinics. The state is expanding the range of its mobile vaccination clinic to try to reach areas where shots are lagging. It will even bring vaccines directly to your workplace, place of worship or school, provided you’ve got 10 people.
Fewer Mainers are getting newly vaccinated as the state looks for ways to improve accessibility and reduce hesitancy. The number of Mainers getting newly vaccinated each week — either a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine — has plummeted 60 percent from a mid-April high, when more than 70,000 Mainers got their first shot in a week.
Maine saw its vaccine momentum run out at a later point than most states and maintains a higher vaccination rate than all but Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, according to a New York Times tracker. The roughly 56 percent of Mainers who have received at least one dose still remains short of most estimates of what would be needed for herd immunity.
Gov. Janet Mills aimed to push Mainers toward getting vaccinated with an incentive program, but less than a fifth of the adults who were vaccinated in the first week of the initiative bothered to claim the reward for which they were eligible, suggesting that its effect so far at least has been relatively minimal. Vaccination numbers have been buoyed primarily by children between the ages of 12 and 15, who became eligible for the Pfizer shot last week.
The state is gearing up its messaging around vaccinations, too. Two requests for no-bid contracts indicate Maine is looking to spend around $1.7 million initially on a marketing campaign encouraging Mainers to get a shot by featuring residents who are fully vaccinated.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine Democrats vote to require masks in State House after Janet Mills’ mandate ends,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “After a long and fraught debate, Democrats advanced the mask requirement on a 6-2 vote with Assistant Minority Leader Joel Stetkis, R-Canaan, abstaining, and another Republican having left the meeting after indicating opposition. People will be able remove masks in outdoor spaces and lawmakers abolished a strict guest policy that allowed lawmakers to set up appointments with constituents. Contact tracing will be conducted for non-credentialed members of the public.”
— “A foreign worker shortage is forcing Maine businesses to consider limiting their hours this tourism season,” Lori Valigra, BDN: “The Department of Homeland Security said it will provide 22,000 more H-2B foreign seasonal worker visas on top of the 66,000 set by Congress this year, but it’s not clear when those extra visas might become available and how many Maine businesses might get. Embassies that must approve the J-1 visas for cultural exchange workers are behind because they were closed much of last year.”
The border between the U.S. and Canada remains closed for now. The decision to push the opening date for another month to June 21 comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wants to wait until 75 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated. The continual closure of the border to everyone except for essential traffic has been a source of frustration for those who live or work close to the border in Maine and is something U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has been actively lobbying against. So far, 48 percent of Canadians have received at least one vaccine dose, according to COVID-19 Tracker Canada.
— “Lewiston wins competitive $30 million federal grant to transform housing,” Callie Ferguson and Josh Keefe, BDN: “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant will help the state’s second-largest city and its co-applicant nonprofit, Community Concepts, implement an urban development plan that aims to increase the amount of safe, affordable housing in the downtown and improve the economic and social wellbeing for the area’s residents.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper. 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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