QUOTE OF THE DAY: “They didn’t stop [the certification], but did a lot of damage,” James Varner, 87, the president of the Maine Human Rights Coalition and a cofounder of the Greater Bangor Branch of the NAACP, said of the riot this month at the U.S. Capitol. “I’m sure Dr. Martin Luther King is rolling over in his grave over this awful event.”
What we’re watching today
Maine is extending coronavirus vaccines to residents age 70 and older, but it may take a while to schedule an appointment. The state announced 18 vaccination sites on Monday, which will begin offering the vaccine as part of Phase 1B of Maine’s vaccine rollout. About 193,000 Mainers are 70 or older and would be eligible in this first part of the phase, although those who live in long-term care facilities may have already received the vaccine.
But as newly eligible Mainers scramble for vaccinations, spots are going to be scarce. As of Monday — four-and-a-half weeks into Maine’s vaccine distribution — just over 67,000 people have received first doses of the vaccine, according to data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, while just shy of 12,000 received second doses.
Maine’s latest vaccine order is expected to give the state enough doses to cover 117,575 people. But state health officials have acknowledged that Phase 1B is likely to last at least until April. Unlike with virus testing, where Maine was able to acquire tests on its own, the state’s allocation of vaccines is strictly tied to what it can get from the federal government.
In the short term, vaccine distribution is likely to come with a bit of geographic luck, as only 11 of Maine’s 16 counties have vaccination sites. While the majority of Mainers reside within one hour of a hospital that offers vaccinations, residents of western Maine or parts of Washington County may have to travel two hours or more.
Most of the available sites are open to the public, although it may be difficult to get a slot. Northern Light Health, which covers northern, eastern and central Maine, is displaying no time slots available hours after its portal opened. Not all providers have the same system. While some have pre-registration sign-ups available on their websites, others only offer a phone line at this time. Mainers have already reported to us difficulties with internet access or long waits on the phone while trying to get a slot. We’ll have much more on this in the coming days.
The Maine politics top 3
— “She reported a game warden for groping her. Now she’s not sure it was worth it,” Callie Ferguson, Bangor Daily News: “While she never doubted what happened to her, she has wondered if the painful process of pursuing charges against [Maine game warden Jeremy Judd] — which involved retelling her story over and over, while investigators decided if there was enough to make a case — was worth the emotional toll it exacted, she said in an interview with the Bangor Daily News, sharing the details of her experience for the first time.”
— “In email thread, Maine lawmakers air frustration that they still aren’t meeting in person,” Caitlin Andrews, BDN: “It shows bipartisan frustration as the Maine Legislature has played a limited role in the virus response since leaders of both parties adjourned in mid-March to hand authority to Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, to manage the pandemic. Minority Republicans clamored for more say in the response over the summer, but they rejected two Democratic efforts to return, saying the majority party did not consult them on the scope of a special session.”
The Legislature is having its first (sort of) busy week, with committees meeting for orientations. Legislative panels will be meeting Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for an early round of orientations as the 2021 session is slower to ramp up amid the pandemic. They kick off at 9 a.m. with the marine resources, health, tax, economic development, insurance, judiciary and transportation panels meeting over the course of the day. You can access them here.
— “In secret, Piscataquis commissioners adopted COVID-19 measure filled with misinformation,” David Marino Jr., BDN: “Piscataquis County’s three commissioners likely violated Maine’s open meeting laws when they adopted a resolution that objects to [Mills’] COVID-19 measures, makes numerous false statements and refers to the coronavirus as the ‘Wuhan Virus.’”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.