Maine Vaccine Incentives: Gift Cards, Baseball, Fishing

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine is rolling out free fishing licenses, baseball tickets and L.L. Bean gift cards to encourage more residents to get vaccinated before the end of the month, Gov. Janet Mills announced Tuesday.

Mills unveiled the public-private program, “Your Shot To Get Outdoors,” during a virtual discussion President Joe Biden hosted with several governors.

The items include up to 5,000 hunting licenses, fishing licenses, Maine Wildlife Park day passes and state park day passes, along with up to 10,000 $20 L.L. Bean gift cards and up to 5,000 Portland Sea Dog tickets and passes for Oxford Plains Speedway.

“Whether you’re an angler or a hunter, a baseball fan or a racing fan, or someone who just all-around enjoys being outside, now is a great time to protect yourself from COVID-19 and take to the outdoors,” Mills said.

The program led by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services comes as the number of vaccinations dipped to less than 63,000 last week, down from a peak of more than 125,000 doses in the first week that eligibility opened to all adults.

The state hopes the new program along with federal approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for younger teenagers will encourage more vaccinations.

MaineHealth is working with school districts to offer vaccinations for students. Many students could be fully vaccinated before the school year comes to an end, said Dr. Joan Boomsma, chief medical officer.

“We see the vaccine as that potential game-changer for us,” said Jeremy Ray, superintendent for Biddeford, Dayton and Saco schools. There are clinics in Biddeford on May 18 and in Saco on May 20, he said.

In other pandemic-related news:

THE NUMBERS

The number of COVID-19 infections continues to trend downward in Maine.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has gone from 351 new cases per day on April 25 to 304 new cases per day on May 9.

On Tuesday, there were nearly 240 new confirmed infections and two deaths, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported. All told, the state has had more than 64,000 cases of the virus and 797 deaths since the start of the pandemic, the Maine CDC said.

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RENTAL HELP

Thousands of struggling Maine renters during the pandemic are seeing a two-month backlog for rent relief applications.

Understaffed local agencies are struggling to keep pace with the volume of applications and a bulkier process that requires more documentation, the Bangor Daily News reported.

Maine’s latest rent relief program is funded by the federal COVID-19 aid package passed in December.

And it's "much more administratively burdensome,” according to Shawn Yardley, CEO of Community Concepts, which facilitates the program for Androscoggin and Oxford counties as well as the city of Brunswick.

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VACCINE MANDATE BILL TABLED

A committee of the Maine Legislature was no longer scheduled to consider a proposal on Tuesday that would ban coronavirus vaccine mandates for five years.

The proposal had been slated for a work session before the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services on Tuesday, but is no longer on the committee's calendar.

The Republican lawmakers who supported the proposal, led by Rep. Tracy Quint of Hodgdon, tied their proposal to the theory that coronavirus vaccines cause reproductive harm. The proposal states that coronavirus vaccine mandates would be banned for five years "in order to allow for safety testing and investigations into reproductive harm.”

Numerous medical authorities have said the claim lacks merit, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine lawmakers are not currently considering coronavirus vaccine mandates.