Virus loads are declining and the strain on hospitals is finally easing up in Maine, but we’re not out of the woods yet with COVID-19.

Maine lawmakers should consider implementing an indoor mask requirement in essential places like banks, pharmacies, grocery stores and day care centers, until vaccines are available to kids 6 months or older and effective COVID treatments are more available to immunocompromised people. David Zalubowski/Associated Press, File

With each viral wave, the thresholds for what we consider bad have only gotten higher. So while less and less people are in the hospital – the totals have dropped significantly down from the staggering high of 436 in January – there’s still a lot of virus circulating in our communities.

I learned that firsthand when my wife and I made the tough decision to send our young daughter to day care recently. She was exposed to a positive COVID-19 case on her first day there, but despite spending hours in close contact with the infected child, she tested negative. The credit for that is largely because of the precautions that her day care takes to limit spread, which include requiring masks and the three-shot vaccine regimen for its employees, using an air filter and notifying parents quickly whenever a positive case pops up.

How we manage this virus’ risk has changed since 2020. Today, 77 percent of eligible Mainers are vaccinated – although fewer than half have received the necessary booster shot to maximize their protection. Thousands of people have been infected as well, giving them at least some immunity, though not as much as vaccination would provide.

For most fully vaccinated people, life can largely get back to normal. But for the thousands of families with young kids who aren’t eligible for vaccination, and for those who are immunocompromised, that’s not an option yet.

Former Surgeon General Jerome Adams recently noted that kids under 5 account for 15 percent of pediatric COVID-19 cases, but 35 percent of pediatric deaths. There’s also the unknown long-term effects of COVID-19 infections in children to consider. So while young kids are relatively low risk compared to adults, we should take every possible measure to minimize that threat until vaccines are available to them.


Lawmakers can protect vulnerable populations and still allow other people to live their lives generally unencumbered.

They should consider implementing an indoor mask requirement in such essential public spaces as grocery stores, banks, pharmacies and day care centers, until vaccines are available to kids 6 months or older and effective COVID-19 treatments are more easily accessible to people who are immunocompromised.

State and local governments should continue to offer free medical-grade masks like approved N95s or KN95s, as well as rapid tests to the public to limit transmission. If you’re looking to buy higher-quality masks, keep an eye out for counterfeits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of KN95 masks evaluated by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health did not meet the desired level of protection. Know what to watch out for so you can purchase masks that are the real deal or buy from sources that do the vetting for you, like Project N95. You can also check out ways to safely reuse masks to cut costs.

Our leaders should prepare for whatever comes next because health experts agree that there’s no guarantee the next variant will be less deadly. Policymakers should make a plan that includes an ebb and flow of safety protocols based on COVID-19 metrics. They should invest in better filtration and ventilation in public buildings, especially schools, and double down on efforts to educate more people about the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted.

People rightly want to move on, but when I look at my daughter or think of others who could still be severely hurt by this virus, it’s an important reminder that we cannot leave anyone behind in the rush to get back to normal.

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