A year ago we counted down from ten and watched the ball drop, fireworks explode, and confetti fall. We wished our closest friends and family Happy New Year and, with great expectations, we welcomed in the year 2020.
Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
We end this year grieving — grieving the loss of loved ones, the loss of jobs, the loss of income, the loss of friends; milestones missed, weddings postposed, graduations online, birthdays alone. Holidays smaller.
We grieve the lives we were living, and the ones we wanted to live, before we ever heard of COVID-19.
At the same time, the pandemic has further revealed the character of Maine people: tough and kind; resilient and compassionate. Steadfast.
So we are also grateful – for our strengths, for the people who sacrificed so much to keep us safe.
We are grateful to the nurses and doctors, custodians and clinicians who worked around the clock to keep our hospitals open and to save as many lives as possible.
We are grateful to the teachers, education techs, school bus drivers and school staff who educate our kids in creative ways while keeping them all healthy.
We are grateful to the first responders — EMS, firefighters, police, dispatchers — protecting and serving us all amid a pandemic.
We are grateful to the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for their round the clock work running tests, reporting results, tracing contacts, containing outbreaks, and keeping people informed and safe as much as possible.
We are grateful to small business owners who have adapted in so many ways to uncommon conditions, serving our state by manufacturing PPE, hand sanitizer, face coverings, ballot drop boxes and face coverings, and installing plexiglass and outdoor tents.
We are grateful to the grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, restaurant workers, fast food cashiers, delivery drivers, utility crews and plow drivers — people who never stopped making sure that we had food to eat, warm homes and safe roads.
Grief and gratitude.
Like people all across the world, I am reflecting on last year and making resolutions for the next year.
As of this weekend, more than 27,000 people have been vaccinated for COVID-19 in Maine. For the first time, we have more people who have been vaccinated than people who have had COVID, a positive milestone. We are distributing vaccines as quickly, equitably and efficiently as possible. We will continue well into the new year until every eligible person in our state is vaccinated.
In the meantime, the next few weeks and months will be so difficult as the pandemic rages across our state and our nation. The holiday season is bound to have an impact on transmission. But we also have hope.
Hope for a better and brighter new year, if we can protect our own health and the health of one another by following the precautions we know will keep people safe while we all wait to be vaccinated.
This holiday weekend, as you have with other holidays, remember to find new and creative ways to connect with friends and loved ones.
Please, wear your mask everywhere, indoors and outdoors, watch your distance, wash your hands, and avoid gatherings — in homes, cars, bars and stores — with any people outside your “bubble,” or immediate household. If you do visit with other people, keep it brief and outdoors where there is a lower risk of transmission. This virus is still raging.
Remember too that even in normal times, the holidays can be a difficult time for many. So, let’s check on our neighbors, help those who are struggling, and extend a hand in kindness. Simple things can make a difference in the lives of others.
Emily Dickinson wrote: “Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all – “
With grief for so much that we have lost and gratitude for those we love and those who serve the state, we say goodbye to 2020.
With hope for a new year that will bring health and happiness, we welcome in the year 2021.
Please stay safe this holiday weekend. We will get through this together. We are Maine Strong.
This is Governor Janet Mills.
Thank you for listening.