Wednesday morning, April 29 saw the “Grim Reaper” walking Townsend Avenue in Boothbay Harbor for what he believes is his next victim: The Maine economy. The “Grim Reaper” carried a homemade warrant of collection for the Maine economy. He began his search shortly after 11 a.m., one day after Gov. Janet Mills issued her modified stay at home order. Her plan establishes four stages, focused first on resuming those business operations and activities which can be conducted in a safe manner. The order has already lasted too long for the “Grim Reaper” and he believes it will have a devastating impact on Maine’s tourism industry for years.
So why did the “Grim Reaper” begin his search in Boothbay Harbor? He paused his journey long enough late Wednesday morning to explain his purpose to the Boothbay Register. “It’s the first stop on my search,” he said. “I fear (Maine’s economy) is dead since yesterday’s proclamation by the governor. This lockdown will kill our economy.” The “Grim Reaper” believes an extended shutdown through June and July will cripple local tourism businesses: inns, motels, bars, restaurants and shops. He believes larger, more established businesses may weather the storm, but newer ones won’t recover. “This is a death knell to these new businesses. They don’t have enough money to operate ... And if the owners can’t make a living then they can’t pay employees. Just think how this impacts a single mom, waiting tables, who now can’t work and make a living.”
Mills’ initial order began April 2 and allowed essential businesses and employees to continue work. While public education was deemed an essential service, she also closed schools to students for the remaining academic year; remote learning continues. The “Grim Reaper” approved of Mills’ earlier decisions, but the extended closures he fears will ultimately hurt the state economy worse than the coronavirus. “At first, the two-week closure was the right thing to do, but it has now gone on too long. I think we should reopen Maine like Georgia and Texas are starting to do, and South Dakota never closed. (South Dakota) had seven corona deaths (11 as of Monday) and Maine has (52 as of Wednesday).”
For those who haven’t figured out who the “Grim Reaper” is, he is Boothbay Harbor resident Linc Sample. For years, he made his thoughts well-known with his signs at the corner of Townsend Avenue and Oak Street. Sample, 60, is a builder. He also works for people who rent lodging to tourists and the shutdown will have a negative impact on his income. Sample believes there are better ways to combat the coronavirus than “stay at home.” He believes Maine can achieve the same safety methods with common sense. “We can do it with social distancing, washing your hands and with those at-risk groups, like seniors or with medical issues, staying home,” he said. Sample said the extended shutdown will likely result in him having a “pretty lean winter.”
But Mills disagrees with Sample and other states beginning to loosen restrictions more than she is. The governor wants to monitor coronavirus progression month by month and loosen restrictions based on each stage’s success. A monthly breakdown of each stage allows for sufficient time to assess the effectiveness of the health and safety precautions adopted, according to Mills’ plan. The new “Stay Safer at Home” order allows Mainers to visit businesses or participate in activities deemed safe to open under Stage 1.
“I am proud of the work Maine people have done to mitigate the spread of the virus and to flatten the curve, but our work is far from over,” said Mills in a press release. “While this plan presents a path forward for gradually and safely restarting our economy, it should not lure Maine people into thinking that this pandemic is almost over or that things will be back to normal soon. The hard truth is that they are not; that they likely will not be for a long time; and that, with this plan, we are inventing a new normal – a different way of doing business, shopping, traveling, and enjoying the Maine outdoors in ways that keep us all safe.”
Sample is an unenrolled voter. He prefers President Trump’s handling of the pandemic, but he expressed concerns in his initial steps. “The federal government has done a better job in handling this. I think he (Trump) did the right thing in shutting down travel from China, but he should have done it sooner, and shut down travel all together.” He described Mills’ latest approach as basically nothing. “It opens hair salons. Big deal. That’s not going to do anything for the economy,” he said.
Sample forsees more suicides, domestic violence, and a rise in alcoholism and substance abuse. “The approach I’d take is let Americans be Americans. People need to decide for themselves, that is what America is all about, not letting government make decisions for us.”