As Maine enters Stage 1 of the Governor’s Restarting Maine’s Economy Plan today, Governor Janet Mills spoke directly to the people of Maine today to tell them that, although times are tough, Maine people will persevere and will not give up on each other:
“This virus is testing the limits of our patience, the limits of our economic stability, the limits of our state’s health and endurance. In this, our 200th year, let us stand up to show the world who we are; let’s show them that, no matter the challenge, no matter the difficulty, we will persevere. Let’s keep talking. […],” Governor Mills said.
“Let’s work harder than ever in these next few months to keep this thing at bay and keep our people – and our economy – safe. We can do this. I believe in you, in the faith, ingenuity and willpower of the people of Maine. I believe in our great State. And I will do everything I can to save it. I am not a quitter. Maine people are not quitters.
“People are angry and frustrated, some losing patience. But no matter what, we will listen to each other. We will work with each other. We will do everything in our power to keep each other safe. We will not give up on each other, never quit each other. And I will never quit you,” she concluded.
The complete text of Governor Mills’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, are as follows:
I want to take just a few minutes to speak to the Maine people, before I go back to the business of running the state in such a difficult time.
Today marks the first day of the first stage of our state’s reopening.
Today, many Maine people will be able to receive health care for certain medical needs for the first time in weeks, important procedures that have been long postponed. This is a critical change to support the health of Maine people and to provide a lifeline to rural hospitals and clinics on the brink of bankruptcy.
This weekend, Maine people can also worship with members of their faith safely under new guidelines, and others may seek relief from the stress of these times with a round of golf or an afternoon of fishing.
Today businesses such as barbershops and hair salons can, with strict health and safety protocols, choose to open their doors to customers and staff once again.
And we trust them to know whether or not they can operate safely under these new guidelines administered by the Department of Economic and Community Development. If they do not yet have the equipment or protocols they need, or simply do not feel safe reopening, they should not reopen.
And if you need a haircut, please make sure that that salon or barber shop is complying with these guidelines.
These are important and meaningful first steps towards creating a new normal – a different way of doing business, of shopping, traveling, and enjoying the Maine outdoors in ways that will keep us all safe, if we all pull together and follow these rules that are based on fact and on science.
We introduced these changes earlier and there have been a lot of questions. That is to be expected.
We will keep working to answer them, one by one, and to address especially the needs of small businesses who are striving to survive in this new pandemic-driven economy.
We have said from the beginning that our plan is a flexible document, that we are always open to constructive dialogue from all workers and businesses and members of the public.
In the meantime, I know many of you are frustrated.
Some say they are frustrated that the State is moving too slowly; they worry about the financial toll on summer tourism that is so vital to our state’s brand and to our financial wellbeing.
Some people say they want to go back to work but are afraid of having to deal with the public, including millions of people from out of state who come here every summer, many from Boston, New York, New Jersey and other dangerous hot spots.
Some are engaging in partisan political chatter over this pandemic; but we know this virus plays no favorites: it doesn’t care whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, a Green or an Independent, unregistered or unenrolled. It does not take political sides; it is an equal opportunity destroyer.
Other people say they are frustrated that we are opening up any businesses at all, because of all the people in our state who are older or who have an underlying condition – or both – that puts them in the “vulnerable” category, putting their lives in grave danger whenever and however this virus spreads.
They read the newspaper.
The know that more than 3,500 people have died in Massachusetts from this painful virus; more than 18,000 New Yorkers have lost their lives; more than 7,000 in New Jersey; 2,257 in Connecticut.
And in just the last 24 hours, the State of Georgia reports more than one thousand new cases.
I hear all of this. I hear all of you.
With every order I have issued and every action I have taken, I have thought long and hard about how Maine people – and Maine businesses -- will be impacted.
These are some of the most difficult decisions any governor has ever had to make, in consultation with the people and the businesses affected but always with the public health as our first priority.
The challenges this dangerous pandemic poses to us and to our state are unlike anything we have seen in generations.
In threading many needles every day, in finding the delicate balance between saving lives and preserving livelihoods, I am reminded of what H.L. Mencken said.
He said, “There is a single solution for every problem: simple quick, and wrong.”
There is no easy solution here.
We cannot flip a switch and open up all the restaurants, all the bars, all the souvenir shops and all the motels across the state to do business as usual and risk a more aggressive resurgence of this virus that will only sicken more people, destroy lives and devastate our entire economy for years to come.
I believe strongly that the vast majority of business owners across Maine, though they are frustrated about being closed and concerned about their future, I believe that they share an unflagging commitment to keeping Maine people healthy.
I ask them to stay the course. Continue talking, continue listening, continue being part of the solution.
And we cannot just remain closed. There are activities that we can do safely now that will allow our economy to begin to function again.
I wish I could tell you when this pandemic will be over – but I can’t.
If I gave you a simple, quick and easy answer like that – it would be wrong. Because this pandemic – and all of its impacts – is extraordinarily complicated. So, let me tell you what we are doing:
First, unlike some other states, we have, from the beginning, allowed construction, industrial manufacturing, fishing, home repair, pharmacies, auto repair, child care, banks, laundromats, veterinary clinics and farming and a number of essential services to continue as usual, with precautions.
We are collaborating with others from all economic sectors across the state to prepare them to open as soon as they can and as safely as they can.
I am well aware that this timetable puts a crimp in the ability of many businesses to rehire, to retool and to take reservations from vacationers and others who want desperately to escape to our state in June, July and August, to enjoy the beaches, mountains, rivers and fields of this wonderful place we call home.
First and foremost, in order to expand businesses further and to prepare for the tourist season, we need more testing capacity. We are working every day on that critical issue. Expanding testing will give us a better picture of how widespread this virus is now in our state and help us prepare, in a measured and thoughtful way, for an influx of people from out of state in the coming months.
We are constantly reevaluating the plan we’ve put forward, with input from all sources, to adjust it and to safely restart our economy.
As we step into this next stage, as we talk about reopening, there will be a lot of debate. And I welcome that; that’s how the process should work.
There will also be a lot of frustration. I understand that. Yes, and there is anger, and I share that. But let’s keep talking.
This virus is testing the limits of our patience, the limits of our economic stability, the limits of our state’s health and endurance. In this, our 200th year, let us stand up to show the world who we are; let’s show them that, no matter the challenge, no matter the difficulty, we will persevere.
Let’s keep talking.
Our enemy is not anger or fear; our foe is complacency.
The people of Maine have proven, in the last six weeks, that they are courageous, patient and compassionate; that they value the safety of our frontline workers and first responders, including the 253 brave healthcare workers who are or have been stricken with the virus.
The last thing any of us should want to do is to overwhelm our health care system and put these brave people more at risk or take their valuable lives.
It is because of your actions – and uniquely because of your actions – that the virus has not destroyed us, that we have, so far, kept a measured lid on this insidious disease.
The day before yesterday, 252 people died – in one day alone – in Massachusetts, from the virus – A state only fifteen miles from our southernmost town.
I will do everything in my power to make sure that this deadly and untreatable virus does not hop a plane, a bus, a truck or a train, an SUV or an RV… and land here and take over our state as it has taken hold in others.
Let’s work harder than ever in these next few months to keep this thing at bay and keep our people – and our economy – safe.
We can do this. I believe in you, in the faith, ingenuity and willpower of the people of Maine. I believe in our great State. And I will do everything I can to save it.
I am not a quitter. Maine people are not quitters.
People are angry and frustrated, some losing patience.
But no matter what, we will listen to each other. We will work with each other. We will do everything in our power to keep each other safe. We will not give up on each other, never quit each other.
And I will never quit you.
Now I am headed back to work, for the people of Maine. And I leave you in the good hands of Dr. Shah.