A masked man sits alone with his phone on Portland's Eastern prom on Thursday Jan. 14, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

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Yes, and …

“Yes, and” is a principle of improvisational comedy that actors use to guide how they build on ideas through the act. And right now it needs to be the approach we take on the federal, state and local levels to coronavirus.

Yes, we should all be wearing masks, and, in fact, there’s new evidence that we should probably be wearing two. So wear two.

Yes, we should provide forgivable loans to businesses, and we also should provide financial relief to individuals.

Yes, we should set priorities for who gets vaccinated, and we should vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

Yes, we should use the Defense Production Act, and we should use the National Guard to set up vaccination sites.

Yes, we should fully open schools, and we should provide them with the resources they need to open safely and protect students, teachers and staff.

Yes, the federal government should help state and local governments, and state and local governments should help small businesses and individuals.

You get the idea.

Whatever it is that we think that we might need to do to help protect public health, control the spread of COVID-19 and restore our economy, we need to do that — and more.

President Joe Biden has developed a $1.9 trillion relief plan to speed vaccinations, provide relief to individuals and businesses, help state and local governments and schools and to otherwise speed pandemic response.

Other provisions include moves to reduce hunger, to temporarily halt evictions and raise the minimum wage.

It’s a big package that costs a lot of money. And it probably doesn’t go far enough.

The Biden rescue package is running into headwinds in Congress. Concerns are being raised about the cost, the scope and whether elements such as raising the minimum wage should be included at all.

It’s a typical response during a very atypical time. We need more.

The United States has bungled its response to the coronavirus for a year. Politics, ego and an anti-science bias stood in the way.

For evidence, look no farther than the refusal by some Maine legislators to do the very least and wear a mask to protect others while they’re in the State House. It’s theater — but it isn’t improv. The risks are real and potentially deadly.

More than 420,000 people in the United States are dead. The world has lost more than 225 million jobs, with most of the consequences falling on the backs of women, particularly women of color, and lower-wage workers.

We’re in a race against time. The virus that causes COVID-19 is mutating and the damage done to families and businesses is growing. Each day that goes by without doing every single thing we can to improve our current trajectory is lost forever — an opportunity gone.

Nobody worries about the water bill when they’re fighting a house fire. Our house is on fire.

This is no time for austerity or for holding back. We need a total-economy response to the pandemic. Half measures won’t do. We need to treat our current moment like the crisis that it is.

Nobody is doing OK. At this point, most of us know someone who has gotten sick, and many know someone who has died. Our kids are struggling, and overall mental health is deteriorating.

Six months or a year from now — with perhaps millions more jobs lost, businesses shuttered, students struggling, lives wrecked and hundreds of thousands of additional deaths — we don’t want to look back and wonder why, given a second chance to get it right with the new Biden administration, we didn’t do more.

The answer to our response to this global pandemic must be “yes, and.” Anything less risks being a joke with no punchline — only more death and economic despair.

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David Farmer, Opinion columnist

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist....