John Hebert, owner of Hebert Rexall Pharmacy in Van Buren, returns a box of Johnson & Johnson vaccine to its cold storage unit on April 24, 2021. Credit: Hannah Catlin / St. John Valley Times

Good morning from Augusta. The Legislature’s redistricting committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss next steps after last week’s census data release.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s like a Christmas wish list: You circle everything in the catalogue and then when it gets closer you’re like, ‘Yeah that’s not going to happen,’” Waldo County Board of Commissioners Chair Amy Fowler said about the country’s planned uses for federal stimulus money, which have disappointed some broadband advocates. “It’s a work in progress.” Here’s your soundtrack.

What we’re watching today

The COVID-19 vaccine mandate quickly became the latest touchstone in the political battle over the pandemic. Maine’s vaccine mandate for health care workers — announced by Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday — is one of the strongest iterations of those emerging requirements nationally so far. They must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1, giving them about a month from now to get their final shot as a condition of employment.

It was supported by the Maine Hospital Association and other groups representing dentists, nursing homes and others. The state’s biggest hospital networks, MaineHealth and Northern Light Health, had already announced their own mandates, but the industry largely wanted a statewide mandate to keep requirements uniform at providers across the state. 

The mandate comes as rising cases among unvaccinated people are putting frontline workers under new stress. But the mandate is controversial. Legislative Republicans are preparing legislation to try to repeal the mandate, although the chambers are out until October and Democratic majorities would make such a bill dead on arrival. There were also protests in Portland and Bangor this weekend with another set for the State House in Augusta on Tuesday.

Hospitals are preparing for resistance, but an exodus from the profession would be a surprise given recent examples. Both the hospital association and Northern Light said they expect at least a small share of the workforce to quit over the mandate. While the state boasts one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, it still has more than 10,000 workers in hospitals and nursing homes alone who are not fully vaccinated, according to state data.

One of the most-cited examples of mandates’ effect on the workforce is in Texas, where Houston Methodist, a massive health care provider that was unsuccessfully sued over its own requirement, had 150 workers either quit or be fired after it went into effect. But that was out of a workforce of more than 25,000 people, so the overall change to operations was slight.

Since Maine’s mandate comes from the state, it could generate more vocal opposition on the political side. Mills, her administration and health care providers are betting that it will not cause major harm to the health care sector. In the coming weeks, we will see the real-world results. 

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine considers pulling CMP corridor’s permit after court ruling puts route at risk,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “[Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Melanie] Loyzim alluded to the importance of the public lands lease, calling it a “small” but “necessary” part of the overall project that, if lost, would prevent the corridor from bringing electricity from the Quebec province through Maine into the New England grid. David Madore, a spokesperson for the department, said the license would have to be amended if a new route was proposed but none have been proposed yet.”

— “Since 2015, Maine has had highest rate of fatal police shootings in New England,” Lia Russell, BDN: “Maine’s rate of 20 fatal police shootings per 1 million residents over the past six years compares with rates of 6 per 1 million in more densely populated Massachusetts and Connecticut, and 4 in Rhode Island. The more rural northern New England states have seen higher rates, with New Hampshire’s rate working out to 14 fatal police shootings per million people and Vermont’s to 16, according to the [Washington] Post database.”

Though high compared to its New England neighbors, the rate of deadly police shootings in Maine is comparable to rural states in the western U.S. Despite the attention sometimes given to police killings in major U.S. cities, New Mexico and Alaska have the highest rates over the past five years, according to a Washington Post analysis, with more than twice as many shootings as Maine on a population-adjusted basis. 

— “His Old Town priest abused him as a child. Soon, he’ll be able to sue over it.,” Judy Harrison, BDN: “It can be difficult to collect a large amount of money from an individual or the estate of someone who has died. That is one reason why people who endured sexual abuse at the hands of clergy, teachers, coaches and other adults who worked or volunteered for organizations are in a better position to collect damages from institutions than they are from individuals. Religious denominations, school districts, scouting programs and other groups have insurance to help pay substantiated claims.”

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews, 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.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...