My classroom had a sign next to the flag that read, “It’s Up to Us.” It was meant to remind students of civic duty, that liberty and justice for all are goals that often require citizen intervention. Today, civic duty takes on a new responsibility.

On March 18 Gov. Mills closed all restaurants and bars to dine-in customers. She limited all non-essential gatherings of 10 or more. She urged, then mandated, that all non-essential public-facing businesses to close. On April 1, the governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order.

It is assuring that Gov. Mills has already proved herself exceptionally able, and her selection of respected department heads, including Jeanne Lambrew and Nirav Shah at HHS and its CDC, respectively, has already revealed that Maine’s leaders are highly capable public servants.

We deserve the truth, even when harsh. One in seven people who tested positive for Covid-19 have gone to the hospital, and one quarter of those have required intensive care. According to Johns Hopkins and WHO data, worldwide, for every 23 people identified with the virus, one has died. In the United States, the ratio is one person lost for every 82 afflicted. These numbers are snapshots in time when, in the U.S., perhaps with the exception of NYC as you read this, our hospitals have not yet exceeded capacity. The first cases hit the U.S. in late January, rising to 109 on March 1. As of the morning of March 24, we had more than 48,000 cases (New York Times). New Hampshire and Maine each had more than 100 cases, with New Hampshire’s first fatality reported March 23.

If, in a year, we look back and say we didn’t do enough, we will have failed. If we look back and suffer criticism from those who say we overreacted, we will have succeeded.

Like many governors and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, I support federal government action to invoke the National Defense Protection Act. It is wrong that cities and states must compete in a bidding war for personal protective equipment. It is wrong for state leaders to be in the begging posture of asking, ‘Who wants to help and when will you let me know?’ It is wrong for access to healthcare, with proper medical supplies, to be unequal in states that have a similar epidemiological profile. It is wrong that the federal government has not confronted the nationwide shortage of re-agents by ensuring adequate production of these chemicals that are necessary to catalyze the tests for Covid-19.

Only government has the accountability to the people, the transparency needed to properly direct production and fair distribution of essential medical supplies in an emergency, and the power to apply penalties for price gouging.

The statistics show our situation is serious. Social distancing, or more accurately 1.) physical distancing, 2.) washing and sanitizing, and 3.) staying at home as much as possible is not just responsible behavior. It is a civic duty.

The year 2020 will be remembered for the pandemic, its human and economic costs, and for disruption of society, including the hardships of isolation. For more than a decade, our nation has averaged more than 100 suicides per day. Many Americans’ mental health will be challenged in the months ahead. The Maine crisis hotline is there for us at 888-568-1112. But civic duty requires more of us. Maine people care and want to help.

We must call our family, our elderly neighbors, and our neighbors who are caregivers for their loved ones. They deserve a friendly voice and the reassurance of community that is often so evident during difficult times, especially in Maine. This is an opportunity.

As a nation, as a state, as a community, we will get through this. We will once again be able to hug friends and family beyond our household. Our health care system, our economy, and our resolve have long been the envy of the world. They will survive. To ensure that our families and community members, and our caregivers, also survive to enjoy “normalcy” after the months ahead, we must behave responsibly. It is our civic duty

Chris Babbidge is state representative for District 8, a former teacher and lives in Kennebunk. He can be reached at [email protected]

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