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As Maine’s coronavirus-related deaths flatline and state hospitalizations drop to near zero, it seems the worst is behind us. If a surge does happen down the road, our hospitals are now better equipped to deal with breakouts. Both are reasons to continue the staged reopening process and not slip backwards like other areas across the country.
Tax revenues have drastically declined, causing the governor to call for 10 percent cuts in all departments. Maine’s unemployment rate is double pre-pandemic levels and over 50,000 people who had a job earlier this year don’t have one now. Continuing the reopening process and alleviating the fear of travel nationwide is the prescription our economy needs to kick the pandemic.
Putting COVID-19 into perspective will help flatten the fear. We need to approach the pandemic logically and rationally. The facts matter. The opinions of public health experts matter.
For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revised its COVID-19 fatality rate to 0.26 percent, making the coronavirus slightly worse than the seasonal flu, but also a far cry from the 3.4 percent initially reported by the World Health Organization in March. Generally speaking, the fatalities that do occur are clumped by age group and geography.
More than 80 percent of all COVID-19 deaths are among those over 65 years old — many of which are in long-term care facilities, and specifically in Maine half of our coronavirus-related deaths come from nursing homes. Clearly, measures to protect our most vulnerable population are essential.
However, while COVID-19 poses a serious threat to older Mainers, the vast majority of residents have little to worry about. Good handwashing hygiene, social distancing and wearing a mask when appropriate will help keep the vulnerable population safe.
Moreover, roughly 40 percent of all COVID-19 deaths nationally have happened in 1 percent of U.S. counties, while 80 percent of fatalities can be grouped into 10 percent of U.S. counties. These “hot spots” tend to be densely populated, while Maine’s population is scattered across millions of acres.
Reputable national groups are also weighing in and encouraging a balanced perspective. For example, medical experts conclude schools can safely reopen in the fall. The American Academy of Pediatrics, National Academies of Sciences and CDC all agree the goal of school districts nationwide should be to resume in-person, classroom instruction.
Even in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, Mainers do have reasons to be optimistic. Let’s stick together and keep our heads held high. There is light at the end of the tunnel.
Stacey Guerin of Glenburn represents District 10 in the Maine Senate. She is a small business owner and partner of the Job Creators Network Foundation.