I don’t think any of us could have imagined, even just a few months ago, that we’d be in the situation we are today: Our kids are out of school and businesses have closed. Workers have been laid off, had their hours reduced, or have been asked to work from home or keep working while potentially putting their health at risk. People have been unable to visit their loved ones in long term care facilities and hospitals. Non-urgent medical care has been delayed. Civic organizations and houses of worship have had to make drastic changes or stop their in-person work altogether. Just the simple task of going to the grocery store has become a complicated and intimidating ordeal.

This collective crisis has affected all of us in different ways, but for those who have contracted COVID-19, lost a loved one to the disease, or been on the front lines of this pandemic, the past few months have been an incredibly difficult and harrowing time.

Those who have experienced serious cases of COVID-19 describe it as a terrifying and agonizing ordeal. An otherwise healthy woman in her 40s who contracted the virus told the Press Herald:

“For more than three weeks, I was the sickest I’ve ever been. I had days where I couldn’t fully inhale. I went to sleep at night wondering if my lungs would adequately do their job. I had soaring blood pressure and then especially low blood pressure. My heart raced like it was going to pound out of my chest.”

She eventually recovered, but unfortunately, many others have not.

Loss of life from COVID-19 has been particularly severe in congregate care settings across the state. At the time of writing, in the Maine Veterans Home in Scarborough, we’ve lost 11 veterans and one veteran’s spouse to the virus. These are people who made tremendous, unknowable sacrifices for our country, and they passed away alone, without being able to see their families one last time. Their funerals have been postponed until it’s safe to gather in such a manner again.

The human suffering that stems from this tragic loss of life is massive. In addition to the families, friends and communities who mourn the deceased, so too do the dedicated staff who have been caring for them in their final weeks and working around the clock to keep the other residents in the facility safe. Health care workers and other staff often build strong bonds with those under their care, and the death of a beloved resident can affect them greatly.

It is important that we recognize this suffering and find ways to support those who have been affected. It has been so uplifting to see the people in our community find ways to support the staff and residents at MVH – Scarborough, through deliveries of medical supplies, videoconferencing check-ins, prayer, drive-by parades and music. Visit https://mainevets.org and click on “Support MVH” to pitch in during these difficult times.

We must move forward from here in a way that prevents further suffering and loss of life, while avoiding the most serious potential economic impacts of this outbreak. Striking that delicate balance will be very difficult, and absolutely must be informed by science and public health, not partisan political agendas.

Gov. Janet Mills has released a plan that seeks to do this, and her office has indicated a desire to be flexible and responsive, both to the needs of Maine businesses and workers, and also the reality of the COVID-19 outbreak. I agree with many who have said that Maine must be more aggressive in testing and follow-up contact tracing to reduce the elusive spread of disease.

To read the plan, visit www.maine.gov/covid19/restartingmaine. To give feedback on the plan or get answers to question you may have about it, email the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development at [email protected] The legislature is also working to provide necessary oversight and input to ensure that this plan works for the people we represent.

You may call my office at (207) 287-1515 or send me an email at [email protected] if you need assistance or to share your thoughts about how best to move forward.

Sen. Linda Sanborn currently represents most of Scarborough, along with Gorham and most of Buxton, in the Maine Senate. She previously served four two-year terms in the Maine House of Representatives, and is retired after 25 years of practicing family medicine in Gorham.

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