Good morning from Augusta.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Lobster is known as a Maine good. This is where the quality comes from,” said Pete Leavitt of the Leavitt & Sons Deli sandwich shops, on whether the lobster roll should be the Maine state sandwich. “No one ever advertises ‘lobster from Connecticut.’” Here’s your soundtrack.
What we’re watching today
The governor dismissed the idea that a wide federal vaccine mandate will cause job losses, but stopped short of endorsing it outright. The statement came after Gov. Janet Mills appeared Tuesday afternoon alongside U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh for a roundtable discussion of Maine’s WorkShare program, which allows struggling businesses to temporarily reduce staff hours and allows employees to get partial unemployment benefits.
The Democratic governor’s vaccine requirement for health care workers is now in effect, although Maine is not enforcing it until the end of the month. Hospitals have reported relatively few resignations due to the mandate, but nursing homes and paramedics could face more issues and even few departures could compound a workforce shortage.
The state will see hundreds of thousands of people required to be vaccinated under President Joe Biden’s mandate for employers with more than 100 workers, which will apply to the private and public sectors. Biden has also started the process of implementing a vaccine requirement for Medicare and Medicaid-certified health settings that will take effect after Mills’ mandate.
But Mills reiterated that getting as many people vaccinated is critical to keeping people safe. Doing so may require better public relations, she said, but it may also require mandates that Maine Republicans are challenging with several proposed bills in 2022. Republican-led states are teasing legal challenges to Biden’s mandate, while Mills’ mandate is being challenged here.
The governor said on Tuesday that her administration was still waiting for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue rules before weighing in more. But she did not say she disliked the wide mandate and doubted it would cause wide effects on Maine’s economy, as the state chamber of commerce has feared.
“I support vaccinations, period,” Mills said.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Spending in CMP corridor referendum tops $60 million,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Since late 2019, energy companies have poured at least $64 million into the fight, according to campaign finance filings submitted Tuesday. That includes both direct and in-kind contributions to several political committees and other groups. Pro-corridor groups have outspent opponents, though an anti-corridor group made its biggest investment yet this quarter.”
— “A million Mainers have gotten at least 1 COVID-19 vaccine dose,” Piper, BDN: “Maine surpassed 900,000 individuals with at least one vaccine dose in early July, but has taken nearly three months to reach the next 100,000 people, federal data show, as the rate of new vaccinations has slowed significantly. While more than 10,000 Mainers were getting first doses daily for a time in mid-April after the state extended eligibility to adults, just over 1,000 people have been getting vaccinated each day on average in the past few weeks.”
Significant geographic disparities still persist. About 90 percent of eligible people are vaccinated in Cumberland County compared to only 64 percent in Somerset County, where residents say misinformation and political divisiveness around the vaccine has prevented some people from getting the shot.
Outbreaks are continuing to happen at the Penobscot County jail. About half of the 12 residents and 11 staff who tested positive for the virus were fully vaccinated, according to Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton. The jail has experienced two outbreaks so far, and the recent one occurred after the state set aside vaccines specifically meant for people who are imprisoned and prioritized correctional staff.
— “Your guide to Maine’s new health insurance marketplace,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “The state has been working toward having its own marketplace for more than two years. A 2020 law that allowed the state to create its own marketing, outreach and enrollment programs was a main health care goal in the early part of [Mills’] first term.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews and Jessica Piper and edited by 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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