Maine’s two U.S. senators will join several dozen congressional colleagues in advising the White House on how to reopen an economy now largely shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins both participated in a conference call Thursday with other senators and President Trump to discuss the ongoing crisis and what needs to happen before segments of the economy are reopened. The two were then listed – along with 63 other senators and more than 30 House members – on what the White House called the “Opening Up America Again Congressional Group.”

Public health experts have recommended the U.S. meet several key benchmarks before reopening the economy. Those include: at least a two-week decline in cases, deaths and hospitalizations; widespread access to testing to ensure the case numbers are accurate; and a robust track-and-trace system for identifying and monitoring people who have been exposed to the virus.

King, an independent, said in a statement and subsequent interview that any decisions on lifting restrictions must be based on medical science, case numbers and expert advise, not “an arbitrary date on a calendar.”

“The first metric is where is the case load going?” King said in an interview. “I look every morning at the state-by-state breakdown and a lot of the states are still seeing caseloads going up in the double digits.”

The most important next step, King said, is launching a comprehensive testing regimen in which millions of Americans are being tested daily for the virus and then retested not long afterward to track the virus. King said an initiative of that size must be done at the federal level.

“Until we have that in place, a premature opening of the economy is a crap shoot. It just is,” King said. While King said the debate over reopening the economy is increasingly being portrayed in political terms, everyone wants to see businesses operating and Main Streets throughout the country bustling once again.

“I want to open it yesterday, but I don’t want to do it a way that has the virus resurge and then last that much longer,” King said.

Collins, a Republican, said in a statement that “protecting the health and safety of the American people during the pandemic is my top priority,” but having a plan to reopen the economy is imperative “once it is determined safe to do so by medical experts.”

“We must also ramp up testing to better track COVID-19, along with seeking treatments and vaccine development, and ultimately give Americans the confidence to leave their homes,” Collins said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help address the unprecedented challenges facing our nation.”

 

Most of the country has been in lockdown for weeks as the coronavirus has spread and the economic impacts have been unprecedented. President Trump, as well as many Republican lawmakers, have been pushing to reopen the economy as soon as possible, even as public health experts caution against moving too quickly.

In Maine, Gov. Janet Mills issued a “stay-at-home” order through at least April 30 except for essential activities. She also ordered the closure of the “public-facing” portions of most nonessential businesses and imposed restrictions on those businesses that are still operating.

As of Thursday, Maine had 796 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 24 deaths, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. After accounting for those deaths and the 333 people who had recovered from the disease, the state had 436 active COVID-19 cases, which was down five cases from Wednesday. Roughly 1.3 million people live in Maine.

Mills said earlier this week she has been talking with her counterparts in New Hampshire and Vermont about a coordinated reopening strategy. Similar talks are underway in regions across the country.

Related Headlines


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.