As the battlefield fog of this war against an unseen enemy begins to lift, and perhaps the worst of the struggle is behind us, we can begin to take stock of how we’ve managed our way through, so far, and what we’ve learned.

Maine has benefited from synchronization between the Maine CDC, led by Dr. Nirav Shah, and Gov. Janet Mills. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

There have been plenty of tough and painful choices to make, during this extraordinary time. The first, and most important, has been whether to believe and follow medical people or the politicians, when their ideas diverged.

In Maine, fortunately, they’ve spoken as one, with seamless synchronization between the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Gov. Mills. But that was not the case in some other states, and particularly in the nation’s capital. There, the medical advice and the political messages were often muddled, at best, and contradictory at worst.

People who have worked in epidemics for decades were warning, from the beginning, that we must take immediate and drastic action. The President and others were dismissive, telling us that this ‘thing’ was nothing to be concerned with, and would soon pass.

In Maine, we chose knowledge, experience and facts over wishful thinking and politics. And we put our faith in the sincerity and decency of people like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Maine’s CDC’s Dr. Shah.

Mainers made this choice despite years of political attacks on science, experts, people in government and the media. When the stakes were highest, and the need for unvarnished information the greatest, we turned to the ‘experts’, and they came through.


That choice was a big deal. States that put medical people out front, and followed their advice, are the ones that will come out of this best. A prime example is Washington state, which reported some of the first cases of COVID-19, in a nursing home back in January. While the governor and mayors played a significant role in that state’s response, they always first followed the advice of the experts. Now, Washington State is the closest of any state to returning to a new normal.

On the other end of the spectrum was the national leadership in Washington, D.C., where the approach was to refute or ignore the science and the experts in favor of political calculations, hunches and wishful thinking.

In 35 White House briefings since mid-March, the president has spoken for more than 28 hours, eating up 60 percent of the time that could have been used to highlight expert information and guidance. That included two hours attacking others (China, Democrats, Congress, the media and governors) and 45 minutes praising himself. He spent just 4½ minutes expressing condolences to the families of victims, but twice that time promoting unproven and even dangerous ‘miracle cures’.

Now we are approaching 100,000 officially counted deaths, the most in the world and more than the next four countries combined.

In Maine, the war is not over, but we’re on the road to victory. The greatest danger now is ignoring medical advice and moving too quickly to reopen. That will only delay our recovery.

The day will come, of course, when we win the final victory against COVID-19. When that happens, we should have a big parade for the people on Maine. Near the front of it, let’s put the nurses and doctors, who risked everything without knowing how great the dangers were. And public safety, fire and rescue folks who went into homes never knowing what was on the other side of the door.

Then the parents of school-age children, who’ve had to juggle upended schedules, chaos at home and disruptions at work – including losing their jobs. With them, the teachers and school administrators, who did all they could do to continue to nurture the kids in their charge, despite distances and distractions.

Next up, the folks who kept the grocery stores running or worked through the night to manufacture masks and tests. And small business owners who reached deep to keep their employees afloat.

Congratulations Maine! You owe yourself a big pat on the back. Now let’s stay the course and get home safely.

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