Sometimes, oftentimes, we are at our best when things appear to be at their worst. As in any war, success demands of us cooperation, a societal commitment to do what is necessary to help each other work toward a goal. Regarding COVID, our choices and our discipline are still being tested.

According to the CDC, as of Sept. 13, 80,510 Mainers have or have had COVID-19. My own town has had 730 cases, meaning one of every 16 Kennebunk residents has or has had COVID. That does not include infected visitors from out of town.

Chris Babbidge Courtesy photo

The number of Mainers who have died, mostly in isolation, is 961.

What is alarming is the evolution of these numbers. As I write this, nearly 200 Mainers are in hospital with severe COVID symptoms, more than one-third of them in an ICU. Forty Mainers, frightened as are their families, are on ventilators fighting for their lives.

The worst numbers of COVID came nine months ago after the congregate meetings of the December holidays. On Jan. 8, COVID hospitalizations in the U.S. reached 127,000. On June 24, hospitalizations were “down” to 12,500. Careful behavior and miraculous vaccinations were effective in arresting spread.

But now, we face a new assault. In a five-week period, from August to September, a period when hospitalizations were declining a year ago, hospitalizations escalated this year from 42,000 to 96,000. Per capita, the worst outbreaks right now are in Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida. Louisiana and Mississippi are reeling from low vaccination rates and devastation from Ida, and they are experiencing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Florida, in raw numbers, has the highest seven-day average of new cases in the nation. And in Maine, our positive Antigen tests have escalated to a daily rate of between 8 and 10 percent.

According to a physician at Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital, Americans are 25 to 30 times more likely to be hospitalized, or die, if they are unvaccinated.

We have neglected to get enough vaccinations in time to achieve herd immunity, giving the virus time to mutate into different variants. Of active cases in Maine, as reported by a local media outlet on Sept. 13 1,109 people are infected with the Alpha variant (associated with the UK). The Gamma variant (linked w Brazil, and similar to the Beta variant of South Africa) has infected 142 Mainers. The Delta variant (B.1.617.2, associated with India) is responsible for most of the current surge around the country, and is infecting 1,493 Mainers. And the newest variant, the Mu variant, feared to be the most contagious, has assaulted 16 states, including 72 people in Maine.

We, as individuals, have the freedom to swing our arms only to the point of another person’s nose. We do not have the right to harm others or put them at significant risk. We have formed government to craft rules to protect citizens and the general welfare.

As I often stated in my government classroom, we choose to surrender some freedom when we drive on the right side of the center line, understanding that it is mutually beneficial. Likewise, we can benefit both ourselves and our community by using masks and getting vaccinated. Our doctors, nurses and first responders deserve no less. The lives of our spouses, grandparents and grandchildren could depend on it.

Ben Franklin, in a time of war, once warned, “We must hang together, or we most assuredly will hang separately.”

Today we face a test that, although of a different kind, demands a unified response. We can rise to the task and, together, do the right thing for each other.

Chris Babbidge is state representative for District 8, Kennebunk. He may be reached at [email protected]

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