AUGUSTA, Maine — A Republican lawmaker from York County is among dozens of plaintiffs in a new federal lawsuit filed last week against Gov. Janet Mills’ coronavirus restrictions after the state set a timeline to roll back many of the emergency measures.
The lawsuit is the most recent of complaints filed against the Mills administration challenging her authority during the pandemic, granted when the Legislature adjourned last year as the virus hit Maine. None of the lawsuits have been successful to date. Democrats in the Legislature also blocked Republican efforts to end the state of emergency last week.
Rep. Heidi Sampson, R-Alfred, Limerick businessperson Valerie Kessler, two parents and several unnamed plaintiffs asked the U.S. District Court in Bangor to declare Mills’ state of emergency declarations unconstitutional and to determine that the public health emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic is no longer present.
It came days after the Mills administration moved to lift travel restrictions for New England states and raise business capacity limits ahead of the tourism season. New cases of the coronavirus pandemic have been dipping nationally as states recover from a winter surge, but Maine still routinely reports triple-digits numbers of new cases daily.
Plaintiffs argue the coronavirus’ threat to public health has fallen far below initial estimates and has been widely overblown, saying the more than 700 Mainers who have died from the disease represent a small portion of the population and that its primary threat is to older Mainers.
It claims there is no connection between Mills’ mandates and “positive COVID-19 outcomes.” Health experts have attributed measures adopted in Maine, such as mask wearing and social distancing, may have helped shield the state from seeing more cases during the pandemic.
The lawsuit also claims the state has overstated the dangers of asymptomatic transmission of the coronavirus. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, however, has estimated asymptomatic transmission accounts for half of all transmissions.