What to do when the stark reality of COVID-19 isn’t enough to keep people home? When all the illness and death aren’t enough to get them to change their holiday plans?

Try bribing them with episodes of “The Office.”

That’s one idea from Maine Sen. Angus King — and frankly we’re here for it. After get-togethers over the Thanksgiving holiday caused a predictable — and predicted — surge in COVID cases, it couldn’t hurt.

King in a letter last week asked the six major streaming services — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, Hulu and HBO Max — to make their TV shows and movies free during the holidays as a “public service to those who are seeking to remain safe and indoors this holiday season.”

As the weather gets colder and outdoor activities get less attractive, King said, more people are likely to break COVID guidelines in order to socialize outside of their household. Unless, that is, they have “The Mandalorian” to catch up on.

“We believe that your companies are in a unique position to help families cope with the effects of this health emergency on typical holiday traditions,” King wrote in his letter.

It’s a different tack than King tried before Thanksgiving, when an op-ed column he wrote for the Times Record detailed how the senator and his wife would eat their holiday dinner alone this year, and use Zoom to connect with their kids and grandkids. It was a heartbreaking change, King wrote, but a necessary one to stop the spread of the virus.

Not enough people listened, to King or to any of the many health experts who said holiday travel and socializing at the end of November would lead to a spike in cases in early December.

Which is, of course, exactly what happened; since Thanksgiving, cases of the disease have reached new highs, in Maine and across the country.

That’s not stopping a lot of people from doing the same thing for Christmas. Air travel was way up last weekend, and about 85 million more Americans are expected to hit the road the week starting Wednesday.

If people travel as expected, COVID cases will once again surge. That’s not a guess, but pretty close to a sure thing. The more people who disregard the COVID guidelines for face-coverings and socializing this Christmas, the faster the virus will spread.

Then, more Americans will get seriously ill, and more will die.

If that’s not enough to get you to stay home, then maybe “The Queen’s Gambit” is.


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