The way Mainers have acted over the last several weeks is nothing short of remarkable, and it is saving lives.

Even before the novel coronavirus began to spread here widely, and before Gov. Janet Mills issued orders largely locking down activity outside the home, the vast majority of Maine residents took the outbreak seriously.

That continues to today. Even while perhaps a couple hundred people protested Gov. Mills’ orders in front of the governor’s mansion on Monday, many of them congregating too close together, hundreds of thousands of Mainers did the right thing by staying home.

The protesters said they want Mills to allow at least some Maine businesses to reopen now. Mills has said that won’t happen until public health indicators tell her it is safe.

You won’t find a true public health expert who disagrees with Mills, or the many other governors of both parties who are taking the same tack. The public, too, largely agrees. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken April 13-15 found 58% of Americans worry about opening the economy too quickly and restarting the outbreak, while only 32% worry about the shutdown going on too long.

And a Harvard-Harris poll taken April 14-16 found that 80% of Americans believe the shutdown and social distancing measures were working, and 64% felt they needed to stay in place.

Where’s President Trump on this? After proclaiming that he had “total authority” to order states to reopen, the president backtracked and eventually released what were on paper responsible guidelines for states to follow.

The president then almost immediately turned around and began supporting protesters who didn’t like that governors were following those same guidelines.

That doesn’t make any sense, unless you’re trying to put those governors in a tough position. It certainly doesn’t help our country get back on track.

What would is widespread, rapid-result testing. It is central to the Trump administration’s guidelines for responsibly reopening state economies. It is central to Gov. Mill’s plan, too, and to every other plan worth its salt.

Not only does testing make it less likely that the disease will be transmitted, a robust testing program also gives people the confidence they need to begin going out again, which is just as crucial as lifting legal orders.

However, at every step in his outbreak response, despite pleas from every corner, the president has failed to make sure there are enough tests, and that failure continues today. Most experts say testing capacity will have to at least double or triple. The governors who will have to run such testing programs, both Democrats and Republicans, know this.

If you’re upset at having to stay home, or that you lost your job, that is where your anger should be, not on the governors. Most are simply trying to do their best under unprecedented circumstances, while citizens get mixed messages from a president more concerned with laying blame than solving the crisis.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. No one wants to stay home forever, nor do they want to people to lose their livelihood.

But reopening too early could have disastrous consequences, reigniting a fire that looked like it was out. Remember that on March 2, there were only 11 deaths from COVID-19 in the entire country; seven weeks later, there are more than 41,000. It can happen that quickly.

It may already be happening. The few areas of the country that were slow to institute stay-at-home orders — mostly rural areas where the virus wasn’t seen as a threat — are now experiencing a huge spike in cases.

Nowhere is immune to the novel coronavirus, and you can’t wish it away. Until a vaccine is developed, widespread testing to identify and isolate cases is the best answer available.

And until we have that, most Mainers know that the best we can do is stay apart.


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