My commute to the State House, from Eliot to Augusta, is 108 miles, a nearly two-hour drive one way, generally uneventful, a straight shot up the interstate to our capital. I have learned to make the most of my time on the road: listening to audio books, speaking hands-free with my constituents and colleagues, or motoring north in silent contemplation of the work ahead.

There is a moment as I arrive in Augusta when I catch a glimpse of the Capitol dome and travel the last few minutes with its splendor within my sight. Each time, without fail, I experience a feeling of awe, of reverence, a renewal of the depth of honor I feel as a legislator headed to The People’s House.

My colleagues in the Legislature and I represent every single community in our state. During normal times legislators, staff and the public travel from across Maine to participate in the legislative process. That is what makes the state legislature so extraordinary.

But during the pandemic, it also presents new challenges. Without our vigilance, an outbreak within the State House could have terrible repercussions in all corners of the state. I do not wish to carry COVID-19 back to my community.

In light of this enormous responsibility to public health, legislative leadership and staff have gone to great lengths to ensure we can continue our work safely, transparently and virtually. We have found ways to bring legislative policy committees together remotely, and we have innovated to make sure these meetings are streaming live. We are accepting public input in new more accessible ways. In short, most of your state legislators are adapting to the virtual workplace, just as businesses, schools, and families around the state have over the past year.

We made these decisions recognizing that many of Maine’s workers can’t do their jobs remotely. Hospital and home care providers, our first responders, Maine’s retail workforce, and those state employees who make a living within the Capitol complex simply do not have this option. But lawmakers do, and we owe it to those workers and our communities to do everything in our power to stop the spread of COVID-19.

For those elected officials still presenting physically to the State House (where they must participate via Zoom just as they would from their homes), the bipartisan Legislative Council adopted face covering and social distancing policies. I am writing today to make an appeal to my House colleagues in the name of public health. Recently it was reported that several members of the House of Representatives have been skirting the rules in place to protect against the spread of COVID-19. It is my understanding this flouting of the rules continues.

As a registered nurse and House co-chair of the Committee on Health and Human Services, I know the heartbreak and havoc caused by this virus. Families forced to drop a loved one off at the hospital never to see them again, exhausted health care professionals, jobs lost, businesses closing.

We are all weary and frustrated. We yearn to return to life as we knew it, before a virus arrived and everything changed. I miss my commute to Augusta, that glint of sunlight on the copper dome of the Capitol, and taking my seat in the august chamber of the House of Representatives.

We have come so far, and the end is almost in sight. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but as Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah says, we are still in the tunnel. We have a chance to halt the spread of this virus but it requires the consistent effort of us all. I implore my legislative colleagues to stay vigilant at the People’s House if you must present there and in the communities you serve. We must first do no harm.

Rep. Michele Meyer, D-Eliot, is serving her second term in the Maine House. 

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.