Assistant Senate Minority Leader Lisa Keim, R-Dixfield, is pictured in the Senate chamber on June 30, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The BDN Editorial Board operates independently from the newsroom, and does not set policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on

It made sense back in 2021 to create a state commission to review Maine’s COVID-19 response and better prepare for future pandemics. If anything, it makes even more sense today.

Maine lawmakers unfortunately decided not to move forward with this type of commission two years ago. Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew opposed the idea at the time, in part because the pandemic response was ongoing.

But things have changed since then. The federal government’s emergency declaration ended on May 11. The World Health Organization has declared that COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency. Maine’s state of emergency has been over for almost two years.

None of this means that COVID-19 is gone. Awareness and caution remain warranted. So do reflection and preparation for the future.

“If you listen to the public health experts, as we’ve been calling for throughout the pandemic, it’s not a matter of if another pandemic happens down the road — it’s a matter of when,” we wrote back in 2021. “The more policymakers can understand, in depth, the ways that different elements of Maine’s COVID response have worked and haven’t worked, the better our state will be positioned for that eventual next crisis.”

This is still true. And once again, lawmakers have an opportunity to do this work by creating a COVID-19 review commission. The proposed legislation from Republican Sen. Lisa Keim would create a 14-person commission including the Health and Human Services Commissioner (or their designee) and 13 legislators — six Democrats, six Republicans and one independent.  While DHHS opposed creating this type of commission in 2021, spokesperson Jackie Farwell told us Tuesday that the department has not taken a position on the current proposal.

The commission would be tasked with various areas of emphasis such as studying the laws, rules, policies and executive orders related to the state’s COVID-19 response; reviewing contracts related to the governor’s emergency proclamation and executive orders; reviewing DHHS data related to COVID-19 including suicide and drug overdose data, studying the Maine CDC’s response including testing and contract tracing; studying the COVID-related policies and rules implemented by various state departments such as DHHS, the Department of Education and the Department of Economic and Community Development; reviewing coordination between federal, state and local governments; reviewing vaccine distribution; reviewing the availability of medical equipment and supplies; reviewing communication and information sharing between agencies; reviewing the response of hospitals, nursing homes and other congregate settings; reviewing policies related to economic relief; reviewing the health and economic impacts on communities, including racial and ethnic minority populations; and reviewing the emergency preparedness and response at various levels of government.

“This resolve isn’t about placing blame on people or agencies,” Keim, the assistant Republican leader in the Senate, told the Health and Human Services Committee on May 8. “It is about learning what worked and what didn’t so that we can be better prepared if and when this happens again.”

That is the right approach, though we are skeptical that this effort would be completely devoid of finger pointing or assigning blame. Filling the commission with public health, economic and legal experts rather than current lawmakers might be one way to help depoliticize things. But either way, the public health value of conducting this broad review, and having it to inform future state pandemic response, outweighs the potential for any political grandstanding.

We thought there was a clear value to this type of commission in 2021, and that value remains clear today.

We’ll say it again, having generally given Gov. Janet Mills and her administration credit for how the state responded to COVID-19: Everyone should want to better prepare the state for future public health emergencies. If done right, this commission can help in that important effort. Lawmakers should create this commission and get started on this review in a collaborative and focused way.

Avatar photo

The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Opinion Editor Susan Young, Deputy Opinion Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked for the BDN...