When I have a letter to mail, I like to use the drive up mailbox at the post office in downtown Camden. In driving down to mail a letter this evening, I observed just how empty downtown Camden is of people and cars. Empty parking spots are everywhere and the sidewalks had no folks looking into shops or hunting for a restaurant. The visible Camden economy appears nonexistent. I can only imagine other touristy towns in Maine as being the same.

What do Bar Harbor, Boothbay, or Old Orchard Beach look like? With Memorial Day weekend upon us, I suspect that when they should be bustling with all kinds of folks, they are virtual ghost towns.

Where are all the folks? Tourists are for all practical purposes banned from coming to Maine. They would need to have two weeks and one day of vacation time in order to have one day to be a tourist. Whether we who reside full time in Camden, Bar Harbor, Boothbay or Old Orchard Beach like it or not, tourism is critical to many local businesses' survival. Where are the local folks? The general population is either scared or prohibited from engaging in economic activity. This must cease to be the case.

Gov. Mills must relent and let Maine have the freedom to resume normal business activity. Some other states that have been much harder impacted by COVID-19 have begun to return to normal. The governor of Georgia was highly criticized for opening his state. Two weeks has become the measuring stick for those newly exposed to the virus and yet Georgia has now been open for three weeks and no major outbreaks have occurred. The same is being realized in other states. There has been a post on social media recently comparing four non-lockdown states with three lockdown states. Both groups have about the same population. The non-lockdown states had significantly fewer cases of the virus and significantly fewer deaths. In states that have significant rural geography, there is no correlation to lockdown and the virus or death.

Small business owners are almost always family businesses. It takes hard work and enormous risk to start a business. There is huge satisfaction in watching that business grow and become successful  To have that business be shut down by extended government edict and then experience the economic fallout and bankruptcy is heart-wrenching. Many of these businesses have employees that become part of their family. The stress of this experience can be psychologically and physically devastating even to the point of death.

Recently, Rick Savage, a restaurant owner in rural Maine, attempted to open amid the shutdown. Savage was on the record that he had reconfigured his restaurant to meet current CDC standards of “social distancing for tables and sanitation.” Hundreds of folks showed up to have a meal and show support.  None of these folks were forced to patronize the restaurant. They just wanted their freedom back.

Gov. Mills out of spite responded with a hammer and ordered DHHS to revoke all of the restaurant's licenses and seek a court order to enforce its closure, even to the point of revoking his liquor license when no alcoholic beverages were served. This is government out of control.

Restaurants are going to be permitted to open but with restrictions that only allow them to use one third to one half of their capacity. If these businesses could operate profitably and efficiently at these reduced capacities, then they would not have the larger space. The government is stating that they can open but ignorantly disregards that they will not be profitable. With reduced seating, wait staff will experience reduced income from fewer customers and thus less in tips.

Lodging businesses are being permitted to open but must make sure that out-of-state customers must quarantine for 14 days prior to being permitted to move about freely. It is not hard to figure out that those out-of-state customers simply will not come under those conditions. Let the businesses decide if they want to take the risk of opening and let their customers decide if they want to take the risk of patronizing those establishments.

There is a sign on Interstate 95 as one enters Maine that states, “Maine – The Way Life Should Be.” That is not true today. For a while that sign stated, “Maine – Open for Business” and that is what it should say today. Then one day in the future Maine can once again be “The Way Life Should Be.”

Another View is a Maine Press Association award-winning column written by Midcoast conservative citizens/writers Jan Dolcater, Ken Frederic, Paul Ackerman, Doc Wallace and Dale Landrith Sr.