• By Theodore Lewis

A wedding and a funeral: a tale of two paradises

Portland, Maine-- Two of my favorite places, Guam and Maine, both had their first confirmed case of Covid-19 around Friday the 13th of March 2020.

Both Guam and Maine, under the leadership of their first female governors in history took early decisive action, and as a result had much better outcomes with the virus than the U.S. as a whole.

Both places gradually eased restrictions in late spring and early summer and the people of Guam and Maine were feeling pretty good about the trend line of the pandemic in their respective home lands.

Victory over the virus seemed to be so near.

In August, a funeral in Guam and a wedding in Maine, contributed to major setbacks in the fight against the pandemic in both jurisdictions.

When there is the death of a family member from locals on Guam, a cultural experience kicks in that amazes those not from Guam.

The people of Guam respect, honor and celebrate the life of their deceased loved one in ways that are wonderful and to be admired.

The process starts at the hospital. When a person passes at Guam Memorial Hospital (before Covid-19), the body is placed in a Viewing Room prior to the body being sent to a funeral home. Family members and friends are invited to the hospital's Viewing Room where the body is in the center of the room on a table, covered generally except for the head. Seating is arranged around the walls of the entire room. Family members and friends

console the loved ones and the grieving and celebration of the departed's life has begun.

The wake at a funeral home or church then proceeds and there is much more social activity than exists in most areas of the U.S.

In Maine, many weddings are great celebrations, in part because of the gorgeous natural wonders that provide for beautiful settings. When my wife and I were married in 2004, our wedding was at this historic little church on Bailey Island with the most idyllic views.

On Guam, apparently a funeral celebration in early August along with complacency in some social establishments contributed to a significant uptick in Covid-19 spread on the Island.

As a result, the governor of Guam, Lou Leon Guerrero, ordered a complete lockdown (Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1) again effective Aug. 15, with residents not able to even walk on the beach. From Aug. 20 to Sept. 5, a span of 16 days there were 10 deaths attributed to Covid-19 on Guam compared to 5 deaths during the entire 5 prior months (March to July) of the pandemic

In Maine, on Aug. 7, the pastor of a church in Sanford of York County (who had been blatantly speaking against and disregarding the state's guidelines on church gatherings as well as mask wearing) conducted a wedding in Millinocket (240 miles north of Sanford) where many from his congregation in Sanford gathered.

According to CNN's report, the wedding and reception resulted in at least 147 new Covid cases and three deaths as of Sept. 5. State officials say attendees at the wedding and reception included a staff member of the York County Jail. There are now 72 infections in the jail.

Based on state-published data, the seven day average of new confirmed covid cases for Maine was 13.1 on Aug. 12 and rose to 29.3 on Sept. 4.

According to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the testing positivity rate in York County is now (Sept. 4) three times higher than the overall state rate. "I am concerned that if we do not get a grip on what's going on in York County it has the potential to spiral and start affecting adjacent parts of the state" he said.

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This author feels that the vast majority of all churches and synagogues of Maine and the respective congregation goers of all faiths in the state are observant and compliant with the state rules on gatherings and generally accepted guidelines for prevention of Covid-19. This one church and congregation seem to be an aberration, but the impact of their disrespectful philosophy has been destructive nonetheless.

There is a famous old testament story I used to enjoy reading as a child out of Arthur Maxwell's famous Bible Story books called "So Near But Yet So Far." It is about how the Children of Israel, led by Moses, after their exodus and escape from Egypt, spent many years in the wilderness on their way to The Promised Land of Canaan. The trip could have taken only a few weeks and at one point they were so close to the land of milk and honey, they sent spies who brought back a bountiful sample of fruits and vegetables. However, because of their complaining and lack of faith in God, they ended up wandering 40 years in the wilderness before they finally reached The Promised Land.

Here's hoping and praying that the pathway for Guam, Maine, and the entire country toward conquering and eliminating this pandemic is not so far away.

Theodore Lewis is former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business based out of Portland, Maine. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at theodorelewis@yahoo.com.


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