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COVID-19 vaccines are a ticket back to normalcy for Maine and the country. The marquee at the State Theatre in Portland captured this succinctly, if a little differently than we would.
“Vaccines are a gateway drug to concerts,” the sign reads this week.
Last week, it said, “First you get the vaccine… then you get the concerts!”
The underlying point here, and it’s a good one, is that more people being vaccinated enables the shift back to a more normal way of life. This includes large events like concerts once again generating revenue and spreading good vibes rather than spreading a potentially deadly virus.
From where we’re sitting, the personal and public health benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccination are clear. The vaccines can help protect the people who get the shot, and help protect the people around them. We hope that is enough for Mainers to decide to get vaccinated.
However, clearly some people are still hesitant or haven’t been able to access vaccines at a time or place that works within their schedule. The solution isn’t to shame these people, it’s to provide information, put risks in perspective and highlight the incentives — both personal and societal — that come with more people being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Sen. Jeff Timberlake, the Republican leader in the Maine Senate, also made some very good points about vaccine messaging in a recent Portland Press Herald story.
“Look, I got the vaccine, I want everyone who wants it to get the vaccine, but I think we need to have a more inclusive message,” Timberlake said. “If people see the benefits and see the state and country opening up as we see more vaccinations, they might say, ‘OK, maybe I’ll go do it, too.’”
That brings us to a recent story in the BDN, which dove into the workforce shortage facing the hospitality industry and found that higher pay on its own isn’t attracting more workers to come back. Better pay is certainly part of the equation, but it’s not the only barrier to finding more employees right now.
In a BDN questionnaire, only seven of 32 people who recently left the hospitality industry said they would consider returning for higher wages or regular work hours. Besides low pay and inconsistent work hours, other reasons for leaving included the risk of contracting COVID-19, pandemic restrictions and rude customers.
That tells us a couple things. First, people need to give service industry workers a break. Anyone who wants restaurants and life in general to return to normal should start by treating their servers with respect. Full stop.
Second, as more people get vaccinated, federal guidance is updated and COVID-19 restrictions ease as a reflection of that progress, these developments have the potential to remove or at least lessen some of the concerns on the former hospitality workers’ list. So again, when someone decides to get vaccinated, the decision has positive ripple effects that are bigger than that one person and even the people directly around them. It can help get society and the economy back on track.
One of the former restaurant workers interviewed in the BDN story said he wouldn’t be opposed to coming back to the industry “once things go back to normal.” Vaccines are how we get there heading into the all-important summer season in Maine. As Timberlake told the Press Herald, “this is the way back to normalcy.”