Protecting inmates from COVID-19
I call for the release of as many jail and prison inmates as possible in light of the threat to inmates of the COVID-19 virus. If anyone going into a locked facility, where inmates and staff have no good option of safe distancing, has the virus, it will be almost impossible to prevent a health and safety crisis.
Anyone, who is “pre-trial” and accused of a nonviolent crime (charged but only there because they cannot afford bail) or who is serving time but is approaching the end of that sentence, should be released from jail or prison. Furthermore, anyone pre-trial with monitors on the outside should not be charged for their monitors since their court dates have been postponed due to no fault of their own. I believe the monthly fee for these monitors is exorbitant and should not be charged to people who are innocent until proven guilty.
Please contact Troy Morton, Penobscot County Sheriff, and Mary Ann Lynch, District Attorney for Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, and urge them to release as many inmates as possible as a health and safety measure.
Protect the Endangered Species Act
I am writing in support of the Endangered Species Act, and in opposition to efforts by Congress to undermine this landmark wildlife conservation law.
The Endangered Species Act is a safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction. Since President Richard Nixon signed the law in 1973, hundreds of species have been saved from disappearing forever, including the American bald eagle, the peregrine falcon and the American alligator, and many more are on their way to recovery.
But now, some members of Congress are trying to weaken the Endangered Species Act to benefit developers and the oil and gas industry.
Protecting endangered species is important to me. We have a responsibility to future generations to be good stewards and protect imperiled wildlife and the special places they call home. Our senators must oppose efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act.
Put politics aside
As a physician and legislator, Rep. Patricia Hymanson should know better than to play the political blame game in the midst of a national crisis. Mainers rightfully are worried about the health and security of their families, and as a legislator, it is her job to look forward, working together with her colleagues from across the aisle to find solutions.
That’s exactly what Sen. Susan Collins has done. Coming from a small business family, Sen. Collins must know just how stressful this pandemic is for many small businesses and their employees, which is why she immediately went to work developing the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program. By setting politics aside, she was able to bring a bipartisan coalition together to implement this program in record time.
The program has only been live since April 3, and already more than 14,100 Maine employers have been approved for at least $2.1 billion in funding through this loan program that can become a grant at the end of the term, as long as employees are kept whole.
Receiving a paycheck is far more humane than standing in a bread line, and it is inadvertently solving a problem Hymanson and her colleagues have yet to address — a massive backlog of unemployment claims. The backlog at the Maine Department of Labor has been substantial enough that many haven’t been able to access the unemployment benefits they are entitled to, causing a great amount of stress during an already stressful time.
Now is the time to put politics aside to get things done. I would urge Hymanson to take notes from Collins, rather than politicize our collective pain.
Curbside pickup at grocery stores
We face, in COVID-19, an unprecedented challenge, not only to our health and safety, but also to our way of life. In the short run, we must focus on providing basic services: transport, communications, power grid, health care, and of course, food supply.
To this end, we must do everything we can to flatten the curve of new cases as much as possible. Currently the best weapon in our arsenal is social distancing.
Although receiving and giving health care will inevitably continue to be dangerous, especially without adequate personal protective equipment, food acquisition does not have to be the high-risk adventure it is currently. I advocate all grocery stores provide curbside pickup and that all in-store shopping be banned for the duration.
There are many unemployed people who could be hired to fill the orders and should get a form of “combat pay.” Although the staff would become large, the number of people entering and exiting the store on a given day would be far fewer than currently. The in-store staff, given protective equipment and trained in techniques that minimize their exposure, could be monitored closely for illness. This could mean that the store staff could face much lower risk.
Obviously, the customers would be much safer, particularly the vulnerable portion of the population. The larger stores should be open 24/7 to accommodate the fact that this process will probably be slower. People with flexible schedules (many of the vulnerable are retired) could shop at night.
This will take a significant amount of effort to implement. I suspect the stores therefore will be reluctant. In this emergency, I believe the state should mandate this system and then compensate the stores for cooperating.
A wartime president?
It is as if he downplayed the attack on Pearl Harbor and did nothing about it for two months, then asked his vice president to take charge, and then went on to refuse responsibility for the belated response of his administration.
Obviously, it is only going to get worse. The true heroes are doctors, nurses, and the folks still at work in our nursing homes, grocery stores, distribution centers, and making deliveries. The president should resign and get out of the way.