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Behind the steady stream of shoppers entering Whitney’s Family Supermarket late Monday afternoon was an anticipation of what is to come Friday — a visit to this quiet milltown of some 1,500 residents by President Donald Trump.
“I think it’s awesome having him come up here and check things out,” Reggie Moore of Guilford said. “It kind of puts us on the map a little bit.”
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The president plans to visit Puritan Medical Products, one of the world’s two largest producers of the medical swabs used to test for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. More than 300 workers are employed at the Guilford facility.
In addition, another factory is under construction in Pittsfield to expand swab production as the result of a $75.5 million contract awarded to Puritan under the federal Defense Production Act.
Local residents see Trump’s scheduled tour of the Guilford plant in part as a show of gratitude for the efforts of the local workforce.
“It is a big deal for Guilford,” Debbie “Zia” Letizia of Parkman said. “I’m not sure it’s as big a deal for me but that’s OK. If he wants to come and show them how thankful he is, those guys have worked long hours so I think it’s a good thing.”
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Jeff Pearl of Sangerville also viewed Trump’s pending visit as supportive of Puritan’s employees, though admittedly he was more concerned about his daughter Macee’s graduation from the town’s Piscataquis Community High School, also set for Friday.
Pearl suggested that stay-healthy-at-home mandates and mass-gathering limitations resulting from the pandemic may make for a smaller crowd than anticipated when Trump visits Guilford.
“For a small area it’s a big thing under the circumstances, but the people that want won’t be able to enjoy it,” he said. “Most people don’t want to come out. We seem to be in an area where we don’t have any cases of the [coronavirus] but everybody’s scared to death.”
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Pearl also wondered somewhat facetiously how Trump would deal with the state mandate that travelers to Maine must self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival.
“The funny question is how’s he going to quarantine for 14 days?” Pearl said. “I’m guessing he’s not going to stay in Maine.”
Trump defeated Hillary Clinton 401-222 in Guilford’s 2016 presidential popular vote, helping him capture the one electoral vote that goes to the winner of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
This will be Trump’s first trip to Maine since that campaign, and while the continuing pandemic along with the fallout from the police-related death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last week have heightened tensions around the country, the president has retained support in this area.
“I don’t like a lot of the things he says, but a lot of what he does is positive with the economy and everything else,” said Clayton Griffin, a retiree from Guilford. “And he’s not a politician. Maybe he’s a politician in a business sense, but we’ve finally got someone with some backbone in there and to me that’s what this country needs.
“I like what he’s doing. Just stay off Twitter, that’s the biggest thing, and listen to your Cabinet,” Griffin suggested.
Such support wasn’t unanimous on this chilly afternoon.
“He can stay back where he lives, if you want my opinion,” said one resident who declined to be identified. “I don’t like him. I don’t want nothing to do with him.”
Watch: The risks associated with reopening rural parts of the state