Because of COVID-19, this will be a Fourth of July unlike any other in Maine.

There won’t be any fireworks in Portland, Bangor or Augusta, no Heritage Days Festival in Bath, no parades or band concerts in the many towns where they are a local tradition.

For most of us, this is our first Fourth of July in a pandemic, and we are going to have to figure out safe ways to enjoy it. Maine’s summers are just too short to miss celebrating our national birthday altogether.

Two months of emergency measures slowed the spread of the virus, putting us in a good position in comparison with other states. Maine’s economy has been gradually opening up since May, and people will have more opportunities this weekend to get out than we had back in the spring, and the weather will be a lot better. But it would be a mistake to assume that we have nothing to worry about.

COVID-19 cases are exploding nationally, and although people coming to Maine from hot spots are supposed to quarantine for 14 days or be able to show that they had a negative test result no more than three days before arriving, we can’t assume that these new infections won’t spread here. (Visitors from Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have just been exempted from the quarantine-testing requirement, joining New Hampshire and Vermont.)

Fortunately, we know much more than we used to about how the disease is transmitted and how to avoid its spread.


The greatest danger comes from having large groups of people indoors for long periods of time. That’s why the state’s bars have not been given approval to reopen. But it would be a mistake to re-create the same conditions with private parties.

A Fourth of July barbecue can be a safe way to celebrate if you observe a few guidelines. Keep the guest list small and stay outdoors. And this year, stick with people who live nearby, who won’t be introducing a virus that might be circulating in another community.

Until there is a vaccine the best practices are the ones we have been hearing since the start: Wash your hands, avoid touching your face, maintain 6 feet of space between people and when you can’t be sure you can keep your distance, wear a mask. Since people are contagious before they show symptoms, it’s important to behave as if the virus is everywhere.

Another safety concern for Independence Day is the use of fireworks. Perhaps because so many cities and towns have canceled professional shows, there have been brisk sales at consumer fireworks stores.

If you are planning to host your own show to celebrate the Fourth, be careful. Check local ordinances (cities and towns can prohibit fireworks; the state keeps a list online but cautions that it may be incomplete), and keep in mind that despite the rain this week, this has been a very dry spring.

Mainers will find new ways to celebrate the Fourth of July this year, and we should enjoy ourselves. But we shouldn’t forget that we are in the middle of a public health emergency that shows no signs of going away.

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