For many of us, the days since COVID-19 entered Maine have felt like an alternate reality. As with any challenge in life, it is important that we take some time to reflect on what has changed, and to remember all the things that have stayed the same.

It seems we fast forwarded even further into the digital age in response to this virus. Our teachers are developing ways to connect with students through online conferencing, videos and emails. Mainers across the state gather around their televisions and computers each weekday at 11:30 a.m. to hear Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, update us on the virus’ spread and our state’s response. And many of us are connecting with friends and family near and far through virtual dinners and game nights.

Deadlines and processes for some of our most basic actions have shifted. Our state and federal taxes are now not due until July 15, 2020. We have been given extensions on drivers licenses, state identification cards, vehicle and boat registrations and more that expire during this time of crisis. Our courts are delaying hearings and reducing hours.

Even when we are outside, everything feels a bit different. While people are encouraged to be outside and enjoy some fresh air, they are also encouraged not to congregate in large groups. To help with that, some of our state parks and beaches have closed. When we go to our favorite restaurants, we stay outside and wait for the staff to come out in their plastic gloves, ready to hand off our orders. When we go out for a run or walk, we take a 6-foot detour around the people we pass.

Then, of course, there are the ways we are trying to stay healthy. Never before have we scrubbed so much antibacterial soap on our hands. Never before have we washed each of our grocery items before putting them in our cupboards. Never before have we showed love for an ill family member by leaving food and supplies outside their door, instead of sitting by their bedside or holding their hand. This last one is particularly hard.

It all feels strange, but we know it is what we have to do to keep each other safe, and that is what has stayed the same. Mainers will always be there for each other, and we will always find a way to get through a crisis together.

We are resourceful people. The soap on the shelves is running low, so we are making our own. We are getting creative with our meals and using what we have in our pantry to limit trips to the store. We are using everyday items and quiet corners of our homes to get in some exercise.

We have got grit. Just look at our farmers, fishermen and small business owners. Instead of letting this virus run them out of business, they are creating new ways to distribute their goods and services. They are building community networks, getting the word out through any means necessary and keeping our economy going. We are supporting those efforts when we can.

We care deeply about our neighbors. Maine people are rushing to sites like Maine Helps to find out where and how they can volunteer. Doctors and nurses are coming out of retirement to help our hospital and clinics address patient needs. People all over the state are calling seniors to see if they need errands run or a friendly voice to talk to. Put simply, every one of us is finding a way to help someone else.

So as we look at all that is changing, and as we grapple with how to approach this new normal, we must remember one important thing: We Mainers have a spirit that will get us through anything, and that will never change.

Thank you for all that you are doing and will continue to do.

Rep. Thom Harnett of Gardiner is serving his first term in the Maine House of Representatives.


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