We started sheltering in place two weeks before Gov. Mills ordered home confinement and shut down the Maine economy. From early Maine snowstorms through June’s 90-plus-degree days, we’ve kept homebound.

Not helping with the growing overall gloom, each evening the TV networks pound a steady drum beat, almost gleefully, of bummer news down our throats. At the end, they try to redeem themselves with a 60-second happy face or make-you-cry segment hoping to lift our spirits after they’ve just stomped on them.

One of the few diverting positives has been saying goodbye to winter. We’re now keeping up with the veggie and flower gardens, mowing and using the grill.

Now, four months later, it all seems never ending — closed and failing businesses, group-size limits, daily government lecturing, mandatory face masks, and more positive cases each day.

Governor, we’ve obeyed your guidelines and wear our masks, but our family’s coping with the pandemic seems trivial compared with what our fellow Mainers are enduring.

Mid-March, Maine workers had their jobs and family budgets pulled out from under them by COVID-19 and the shutting down of all non-essential Maine businesses.


Things turned from awful to desperate when those workers attempted to file for unemployment. Tens of thousands, many calling hundreds of times, couldn’t get through or saw their on-line applications freeze up. Some are still waiting for their first check.

Thousands, once enrolled, have now seen their accounts frozen with no explanation when their benefits will return. For too many of them, their April 1 rent check is late.

Demonstrators march on Congress Street during a Juneteenth Black Lives Matter rally in Portland on June 19. Derek Davis photo/Press Herald

The labor commissioner and the attorney general’s office did have the time to collaborate and expedite the awarding of $200,000 in unemployment benefits, including the $600-a-week federal bonus, to Maine convicts.

Governor, those Maine workers followed the rules and their employers had paid into the fund, but your labor department, a colossal train wreck, failed them.

Winter and early spring in Maine always brings a surge in newspaper obituaries. Being the grayest state, we experience more than our share of deaths from the chronic diseases. Sadly, it’s always a time for too many funerals.

Since February, too many Mainers have died alone, their families not near them and no opportunities for goodbyes. They’re being privately buried because of the size caps, up to 10 persons (until it was raised to less than 50 on June 1). This means that there couldn’t be calling hours or celebrations of life because the doors of our houses of worship and funeral homes were closed. Here in Maine, we don’t believe a sympathy card is a proper substitute when a grieving family needs the face-to-face support and hugs of relatives and friends.


Governor, the bereaved families, friends, clergy and funeral homes obeyed your orders.

Just when it looked as if the finish line for the end of this deadly marathon was near, a tragic, coldblooded murder took place in Minneapolis. A police officer, using his knee as a weapon, murdered George Floyd.

Rightful anger is shared by black, brown and white. The wheels of reform are finally turning. We have never seen such unanimity and national consensus for change happen so quickly. We support the cause, but believe that one should live for that change and not die marching in the middle of a lethal pandemic.

For more than three weeks, protest crowds, numbering as large as 2,500, have been marching almost daily through densely populated Portland and its neighborhoods, the most highly COVID-19 infected zip code in Maine. A majority of those marchers return to our towns.

Maine’s CDC is alarmed that black Mainers, Latinos and African immigrants — the core groups in these marches have become the high risk targets of the invisible beast. CDC statistics show that 1 of every 27 black Mainers have been infected with COVID-19, while 1 of every 725 white Mainers are infected.

To the protesters who are marching to save lives, it will set back your goal of enacting reforms if the marching, no matter how justified, allows COVID-19 to take more Maine lives. Writing as a retired politician, this is the crucial moment when you set your marching shoes aside and take up the real challenge — carrying your reform proposals directly to local, state, and federal officeholders and this year’s candidates.


Marching is just theater, it is political dialogue that effects real change and reforms.

Governor, as the leader in our fight against COVID-19 and the three-month absence of the Legislature, you’ve used executive orders: social distancing of 6 feet to protect ones self from droplet infection, also telling us that physical activity, talking, yelling and screaming dramatically increases the distance and severity of possible transmission.

You’ve demanded strict adherence to your crowd-size caps of 10 and lately less than 50, ordered masks worn in public, the need to protect high-risk groups, and that only shutting down community transmission will stop this pandemic, save Maine lives and fully reopen our economy.

When some groups have challenged or disobeyed your executive orders, your administration has used the bully pulpit to pull business licenses and has threatened prosecutions and lawsuits.

Maine families, businesses, clergy, funeral homes, restaurants, hospitals, doctors’ offices, bereaved families, schools, sports teams and universities and colleges have obeyed and followed your guidelines. They know that good Maine common sense, trust in science and that sacrifices must be shared fully if we are to win this war in Maine.

Governor, these protest marches in the midst of a pandemic have violated all of your executive orders and could possibly lead to community transmission back into our Maine communities. That was your reason cited this past week for postponing indefinitely the reopening of Maine’s indoor bars and brewery tasting rooms. Your silence, apparent lack of concern, and inaction worry all that have so far been willing to make their sacrifices.

Now, we have to nervously wait for the next three weeks and watch for the Maine CDC’s weekly release of infection statistics.

Tom Murphy is a former history teacher and state representative. He is a Kennebunk Landing resident and can be reached at tsmurphy@myfairpoint.net.

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