AUGUSTA — Governor Janet Mills issued Wednesday an Executive Order requiring large retail businesses, restaurants, outdoor bars, tasting rooms, and lodging establishments in Maine’s more populous cities and coastal counties to enforce the State’s face covering requirement.
The new Executive Order strengthens the enforcement component of the Governor’s face covering requirement. The Executive Order comes as Maine continues to reopen its economy and welcome visitors from other states. Scientific evidence demonstrates that wearing a face covering can significantly reduce the transmission of COVID-19, helping protect the health and safety of Maine people.
“It is important that we wear face coverings as people begin to interact more and more,”said Governor Mills. “Doing so can slow the spread of COVID-19, protect the health and safety of those around us, support businesses and allow us to safely reopen our economy. I know it may be inconvenient for some, but I also believe that Maine people care about each other, and this simple gesture is a small price to pay for knowing you could save someone’s life.”
“Research shows that face coverings help limit potential transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Wearing a face covering in public places where physical distancing is difficult shows respect for others and reduces the risk that the virus could spread as more people move about Maine.”
Under an April Executive Order, individuals are required to wear face coverings in public places where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, as recommended by the U.S. CDC. In a May Executive Order, businesses were required to post readily visible signs notifying customers of this face covering requirement and were permitted to deny entry or service to a person not wearing a covering.
Wednesday’s Executive Order strengthens that, a news release stated, by mandating businesses require face coverings in retail stores with more than 50,000 square feet of shopping space, restaurants, outdoor bars or tasting rooms, and lodging establishments.
It applies to businesses in the coastal counties of Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland, and York, as well as in the cities of Bangor, Brewer, Lewiston, Auburn, and Augusta.
The Executive Order focuses on these areas given the congregation of people in Maine’s larger cities as well as the influx of tourists in destinations along Maine’s coast.
Under the Order, municipalities may enforce the use of face coverings on streets and sidewalks, in parks and other public spaces where individuals are not able to maintain at least six feet of physical distance.
The Order may be enforced by any governmental department or official that regulates licenses, permits or otherwise authorizes the operation or occupancy of eating establishments, bars or tasting rooms, lodging operations and accommodations, businesses, buildings, parks and campgrounds.
A violation may be construed to be a violation of any such license, permit and other authorization to which pertinent penalties, such as a revocation of said licenses or permits, may be assessed. The Administration has established a reporting form for alleged violations of the State’s health and safety protocols.
To assist municipal governments with enforcement activities and public health prevention and education efforts, the Mills Administration recently awarded nearly $9 million in grants to approximately 100 towns and cities throughout the state under the Keep Maine Healthy plan.
The federal funding reimburses municipal costs associated with these activities, such as staff time for a Code Enforcement Officer, Local Health Officer, or other designated person to be the local contact for educating local businesses on best practices. This may include following up on public complaints and, for certain cases, reporting to State officials when there is a potential public health violation that cannot be quickly resolved through educational means.
The U.S. CDC advises the use of face coverings in public settings, such as grocery stores or pharmacies, to slow the spread of COVID-19. Recent research indicates that a significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 do not experience symptoms, and that those who go on to develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before feeling sick. While a face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, it may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. However, face coverings are no substitute for physical distancing and other recommendations, as described below.
Cloth face coverings can be made at home from common materials. Governor Mills also encourages Maine people to purchase face coverings from a Maine-based company to support local businesses. The Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership has compiled a list of Maine companies producing face coverings, which the Administration has shared with Maine people as a resource.
States across the country, such as North Carolina, Nevada, Washington, Texas and Oregon, have implemented similar strong measures related to face coverings, given the evidence that masks significantly reduce transmission of the virus.
Governor Mills today also extended the State of Civil Emergency for thirty days through August 6, 2020. A State of Civil Emergency allows Maine to continue to draw down critical Federal resources and to deploy all available resources to respond to COVID-19. The Governor’s decision to extend the emergency is in line with nearly every other state in the nation, which also have ongoing emergency declarations, according to the National Governors Association.
“As Maine continues to reopen our economy, we must remember this dangerous virus is still among us,” said Governor Mills. “If we stay vigilant and take all necessary precautions to protect ourselves and those around us, like wearing a face covering, washing hands and staying six feet apart, then we can stay safe and healthy and limit the spread of COVID-19 in Maine.”
This is Governor Mills’ fourth extension of the State of Civil Emergency. Under Maine law, State of Civil Emergency Proclamations may only be issued in thirty day increments. It comes as Maine is in Stage 3 of the Restarting Maine’s Economy Plan and has reopened the vast majority of its economy.