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Feasting is in my near future. Whether you like turkey or not, Thanksgiving is a time of the year to count our blessings.
Maine’s leaders in countering the pandemic — Gov. Janet Mills and Maine Center for Disease Control Director Nirav Shah — deserve our gratitude for their great work. Most Mainers also took responsibility for fighting the pandemic.
More than 71 percent of eligible Mainers are fully vaccinated and that matters a lot. Maine’s death rate is low compared with other states, with only Vermont and Hawaii lower. New Hampshire’s death rate is 30 percent higher than Maine’s, and we’re doing far better than the state with the most deaths per capita — Mississippi, where only 44 percent are vaccinated and more than 1 in 300 residents have died from COVID.
We can prevent more sickness and death. The national CDC found that COVID deaths were over 11 times more likely among unvaccinated Americans than vaccinated ones. In Maine, hospitalizations for COVID are surging in counties with low rates of vaccination. Unfortunately politics is playing a role in vaccination choices. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in April Democrats were 36 percent of those unvaccinated but only 17 percent now. Republicans now constitute 60 percent of unvaccinated Americans, up from 42 percent in April.
I have friends who lost friends and family members due to COVID, leaving empty chairs around their tables and aches in their hearts. We should share their sadness, remember the good the departed did on earth, urge people to protect themselves, and acknowledge and feel grateful for the progress we’re making as a country.
When he ran for president, Joe Biden promised action as he harkened back to another time of great challenges. Accepting the presidential nomination of his party, Biden said “Nearly a century ago, Franklin Roosevelt pledged a New Deal in a time of massive unemployment, uncertainty, and fear. Stricken by disease, stricken by a virus, F.D.R. insisted that he would recover and prevail and he believed America could as well. And he did. And so can we.”
As president, Biden has had to balance that sense of hopefulness with an acknowledgement that many Americans are still hurting.
The pandemic is still affecting our lives, with particular stresses for families with children who only recently have been able to get vaccinated and whose schools may close on short notice when there’s an outbreak. Job creation has been very strong since Biden took office but recently inflation has been a stressor even as families have benefitted from the monthly child tax credits in Biden’s American Rescue Plan and wages have risen sharply.
It’s a blessing that Biden kept his promises to listen to scientists and follow their health recommendations. This is starkly different from former President Donald Trump, as seen in emails and other documents recently unearthed by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and in interviews by the committee of those involved in the response. Officials in the Trump White House downplayed the virus, tried to affect what experts said and limited their ability to speak to scientists, doctors and the public.
I’m grateful to see signed into law a needed physical infrastructure bill that creates many jobs — to fix roads and bridges, expand broadband, remove lead pipes, improve ports and airports, increase electric charging stations and more.
Costs for families will go down if the Democrats’ broader infrastructure bill, Build Back Better, becomes law. The House version, to be modified by the Senate, limits insulin copays to $35 a month, improves home health care, limits child care costs to 7 percent of family income, starts universal preschool and more. I’m hopeful that the changes the Senate makes brings my congressman Jared Golden to not make the perfect the enemy of the good and to support the bill. If passed, Americans would gain opportunity with support for training, education and entrepreneurship and climate provisions help us and future generations.
Soon my fully vaccinated family will gather for Thanksgiving and appreciate each other. After another tumultuous year, mashed potatoes and gravy with turkey, cranberry sauce and pies will fill our bellies, and we will count our blessings.