The two state lawmakers who represent New Gloucester and Poland, who hail from different political parties, jointly called Tuesday for the partial reopening of rural towns.

State Rep. Amy Arata Provided

State Sen. Ned Claxton, D-Auburn, and state Rep. Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, said in a letter they each signed that calls for the state to allow rural towns in every Maine county the chance to open on the same terms established for businesses in rural counties.

“The rural towns that we represent, New Gloucester and Poland, have low population densities similar to rural counties and should not be lumped together with highly populated cities like Portland and Lewiston, where community transmission is mathematically more likely,” the pair said in a letter to Gov. Janet Mills.

Mills has loosened the restrictions she imposed in March for many businesses in rural counties of Maine, but not for ones in more heavily populated ones, including Androscoggin and Cumberland counties. She has been trying to limit the spread of the new coronavirus that has killed more than 90,000 Americans in the past three months.

Claxton, a retired physician, and Arata, a business owner with a master’s degree in genetics, said that with their backgrounds in science, they appreciated Mills responding to improvements in COVID-19 metrics and allowing “the partial reopening in rural counties.”

“We ask that you apply the same flexibility to rural towns in the counties that are still restricted and allow them to participate in the rural reopening plan,” the two said.

Sen. Ned Claxton

Calling small businesses “the backbone of rural economies, Claxton and Arata said they hope the date will convince Mills, who has not yet responded the letter, to expedite the reopening process “and salvage some of our crucial small businesses and some part of our tourism season.”

“Of course,” they added, “we understand that negative data, especially a trend of increased hospitalization, may require you to slow down the reopening plan to a sustainable degree.”

“We agree that we all must be flexible as we simultaneously protect Mainers’ health and work to rebuild the economy,” their letter said.

The pair, each in their first term, said other mostly rural states have reopened their economies more quickly than Maine has and, so far, the data from those places is “very encouraging.”

“A safe, scientifically-informed approach to reopening Maine’s rural towns will give our people hope and encouragement after they have suffered so much,” Arata and Claxton wrote.

Claxton’s 20th District includes Auburn, Mechanic Falls, Minot, New Gloucester and Poland. Arata’s 65th District includes New Gloucester and part of Poland.

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