Remember back in early June when President Trump, on his way to visit nasal swab makers in Guilford, had a griping session with former Gov. Paul LePage?

“Why isn’t your governor opening up your state?” Trump asked.

“I don’t know. We don’t know,” replied a starstruck LePage.

“All these states are being reopened. They’re making a lot of money,” Trump continued. “You have a governor that doesn’t know what she’s doing. And she’s like a dictator, you know?”

“Yes, she is,” LePage replied.

It’s now July 16. Those states that were “making a lot of money,” as Trump so admiringly put it, now find themselves crippled with record spikes in COVID-19. One after another, they’re shutting down.

And Maine?

Look at any map, any fever chart, any statistical compilation and the same story emerges: When it comes to containing the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, Maine stands out as a model in setting public health as its uppermost priority.

Dictator? With all due respect to Dumb and Dumber, Mills looks more and more each day like the leader Trump and LePage could never be.

Drive through the Trumpier parts of Maine and you’ll see plenty of lawn signs, some of them vulgar, assailing Mills as an enemy of the people, a killer of the economy and, yes, an unbridled tyrant.

And if you head for the coast, you’ll still see way too many people parading around with no face coverings, no social distancing and apparently no concern for their own safety or that of others.

Yet despite all these omens that this thing is far from over, Maine stands among the nation’s leaders when it comes to, say, COVID-19 testing.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, we’re currently testing at 280 percent of the level needed to slow the spread of the virus – placing us second only to Connecticut in this all-important strategy for staying one step ahead of epidemiological disaster. And that was before Tuesday’s announcement that 18 new “swab and send” testing sites will be activated all over Maine in the coming days for residents and tourists alike.

Beyond that, with total cases at 3,578 and total deaths at 114 as of Wednesday, we remain among the handful of states that have so far avoided a major spike in transmission of the virus. In fact, Tuesday’s tally of just eight new cases marked just the fourth time since the early days of the pandemic – but the second time this month – that new daily cases were in the single digits.

And our positivity rate, which shows how many COVID-19 tests performed come back positive?

According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Maine’s seven-day average now stands at less than 0.9 percent, well below the World Health Organization’s recommended positivity rate of 5 percent or lower. By comparison, Arizona’s positivity rate has soared in recent days to just under 25 percent.

All good news, particularly as Maine moves toward salvaging some semblance of a summer tourist season. Even better: On Tuesday, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah reported that only 3 percent of the positive cases documented here to date have involved people with out-of-state residences.

Still, even among these positive trends, Mills is smart enough to refrain from spiking the football.

“This deadly virus is still here, it is lurking in our communities, and when it takes hold, it can spread dangerously fast,” she tweeted Tuesday. “The best thing Maine people can do for our health and for our economy is to stay vigilant. The worst thing we could do is let our guard down now.”

One can only imagine what kind of shape Maine would be in right now if all of this had happened on LePage’s watch. Come to think of it, we need only to look at Florida, Arizona and other states run by Trump sycophants to see what happens when economic blinders obscure the ever-present danger of the pandemic.

Mills is 100 percent right when she says Maine is far from out of the woods. And the Republican peanut gallery will undoubtedly continue to vilify her for each and every negative economic indicator that comes down the pike in the coming weeks and months, as if she alone is responsible for a calamity that has only begun to leave its permanent scar on world history.

But four months into this nightmare, it’s worth noting that she hasn’t wavered in her insistence that this is, first and foremost, a public-health crisis. As painful as the economic fallout has been and will continue to be, it can only be solved by first ensuring that people are safe – or at least as protected as possible.

Last week, in announcing (belatedly, some would say) that many businesses in Maine’s most congested communities must enforce the wearing of masks inside their establishments, Mills set herself up once again for condemnation by those who insist on seeing the pandemic not as a danger to us all, but as an assault on their God-given right to behave like self-centered nitwits.

“I know it may be inconvenient for some, but I also believe that Maine people care about each other,” Mills said at the time. “And this simple gesture is a small price to pay for knowing you could save someone’s life.”

That’s a far cry from LePage, who’s made no secret of his plan to challenge Mills should she run for a second term. During his confab with Trump last month, he sputtered that he’d tried to steer the governor in another direction, but alas …

“What I advised her to do, I tried (to tell) her to do is … you can only get into Maine two ways – well, three ways: the Canadian border, the 95 or Route 2,” LePage told the nodding president. “So, if you put somebody at Route 2, everybody who’s got a foreign plate – you know, an out-of-state plate – you check their name, telephone number, where they’re going to be, problem solved. If you have an uptick, you go right there.”

Brilliant, Big Guy. Absolutely brilliant.

See you in 2022.


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