‘History can be the judge’: Gov. Mills reflects on year of COVID-19
This is part one of a two-part special report with the governor
AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Friday marks one year since COVID-19 officially arrived in Maine. TV5′s Brittany McHatten sat down with Gov. Janet Mills to reflect on how far our state has come, and where we go from here.
(This is part one of a two-part special report. Part two can be seen here.)
Like many of us last March, Gov. Janet Mills was hopeful the COVID-19 pandemic wouldn’t last too long. We soon realized that wouldn’t be the case.
“I remember distinctly hearing about the first case,” Mills said. “We thought -- okay, that person is taking precautions, has isolated herself -- that should be the end of it. Some people thought that way, but Dr. Shah and (Maine DHHS Commissioner) Jeanne Lambrew knew better.”
By the time COVID-19 made its way to Maine, the Coronavirus Response Team was already in place. But nothing could stop the disease from spreading across the state.
“Things have happened in an instant, but we’ve had a great team -- an emergency response team -- that has taken and recommended steps to me that I think were appropriate,” Mills said.
One of the questions McHatten asked was how Mills would grade her administration’s response to the pandemic.
“Far be it for me to grade something,” Mills responded. “What I would just say, and history can be the judge, but the data shows that we are one of the top states in terms of the least hospitalizations, least number of cases, least number of deaths. I am proud of that, but more importantly I’m proud of the team that came together in an instant. Jeanne Lambrew, Dr. Shah, Pender Makin, Heather Johnson, and so many other members of our team and members of the staff here in Augusta at the State House. And the legislature gave us tools to work with before they adjourned in March of last year. I’m thankful for that as well.”
More than 700 Mainers have died with COVID-19. Dozens of businesses have permanently closed.
“Is there anything... that you’d do differently?” McHatten asked the governor.
“Oh boy, I don’t know,” Mills answered. “There’ll be plenty of time for Monday morning quarterbacking. There’ll be plenty of people saying ‘She should have done that on March 29th, or she should have done that on July 18th.’ You know, I’ve just got the best team in the whole country and rely on their advice. We argue and debate things all the time, and we have to make the best decisions we can day-to-day, based on the science, based on the facts known at that time. I think we’ve done that about as well as any state.”
One critique from Republicans, even some members of Mills’ own party, is that lawmakers haven’t been involved enough in the response.
“Well I think they were involved -- have been involved -- at every step of the way,” Mills said. “We had every cabinet member make themselves available to the legislature, and legislative committees of jurisdiction, and make sure they knew what was going on. There are a few people who say that more loudly than others, because they know we were acting in the best interest of Maine people. We did take their input, and the input of a lot of members of the private sector. We’ve heard from people -- gotten thousands of messages from legislators and from other about what they’re observing, what they’re seeing and hearing -- and have taken all that into account.”
Mills says she understands how difficult the past year has been for Mainers. She said she’s received thousands of letters with observations, advice, and thanks.
“I think that the degree of compliance and cooperation and understanding has been very, very high in this state, and I’m very thankful for that,” she said.
Of course, the pandemic isn’t over yet. Part two of this special report looks ahead to Mills’ plans for Maine’s recovery.
You can watch the interview in full on WABI’s Facebook page.
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