The following is a transcript of a Friday, June 19 radio address given by Governor Janet Mills.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and during our gradual reopening process, the Maine CDC has been monitoring epidemiological data, like case trends and hospitalization rates, health care readiness and capacity, all of these things to inform our decisions on lifting restrictions and revitalizing our economy.
We look at these metrics every day. We look at them in their totality and look at them in context, as opposed to looking at daily changes of a single metric itself to inform our decisions.
Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.
Last month, the number of COVID-19 cases and the number of hospitalizations rose, particularly in southern Maine.
In light of that, we postponed the reopening of restaurants for dine-in service in York, Cumberland, and Androscoggin counties.
Instead, these restaurants were able to continue pickup and delivery food service and outside dining service, but not indoor dining, and that was a change, while it was dramatic and hard, we believed it was safer for the health of Maine people but still helping restaurants do business in at least one way.
That was a difficult decision – something that frustrated many restaurant owners, understandably so.
We also moved ahead with restaurant reopenings for dine-in and outdoor dining in the rest of Maine’s counties as scheduled, including Penobscot County, and we became the first state in New England to allow indoor dining at all.
Since then, the average number of cases in these three counties — Androscoggin, Cumberland and York — has plateaued, and hospitalization rates have stabilized.
In light of those encouraging trends, this week I announced that indoor dining in Androscoggin, Cumberland, and York Counties may voluntarily resume, with the safety and health protocols outlined in the COVID-19 Prevention Checklist.
I also announced that bars, breweries, and tasting rooms may open in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin Counties for outdoor, seated service. Gyms, nail salons, and tattoo parlors can also reopen in those counties, all with health and safety protocols that must be strictly adhered to. Those businesses were already open in the rest of Maine’s 13 counties.
We also expanded capacity limits at retail establishments all across the state, allowing up to 5 people per 1,000 square feet, given the decreasing risk associated with retail shopping and the assumption that stores will follow strict public health precautions, such as keeping six foot distances in lines outside the stores. Stores being places where you move around, it doesn’t pose quite the same risk as indoor dining for instance.
Well with all these changes, reopenings across the state are aligned in all counties. We have now reopened our economy either on a par or ahead of other northeastern states.
We look at Arizona, Texas and Florida however, and as they report their highest case numbers yet and 22 other states are seeing climbing COVID-19 cases, as we reopen restaurants for indoor dining and other businesses in these areas, we have to remain very careful. We don’t want to make the same mistakes those other states have made.
The experiences in those states are a cautionary tale for Maine.
It is possible, if not likely even, that the changes we made will result in an uptick in cases and we will be keeping a close eye on epidemiological data as we have from the very start.
We’ll look at the data in our state, and the data in our neighboring states, and states like New York and Connecticut where people come from to visit Maine in the summer.
If a review of the data concerning Maine finds evidence of an increase in COVID-19 or a risk to the capacity of our health care system, we will have to move forward to protect Maine people again.
But the most effective way to make sure that we don’t have to put on restrictions again is to practice good hygiene and take care of yourself.
So, I ask you as your Governor — please — if you own or work at a public-facing business, please strictly adhere to all health and safety protocols. Don’t let down your guard. Protecting your customers protects your business as well.
I ask all Maine people, please remember to wash your hands frequently, please maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others no matter where you are, stay home when you can, especially if you are older or have an underlying health condition, and wear a cloth face covering when you are out in public.
Recent studies show that those face coverings work.
If we protect ourselves and protect one another by taking these steps, we can continue to reopen our economy in a safe way and limit the spread of this dangerous virus as we welcome tourist season in Maine.
It is all up to every one of us.
This is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening and please stay safe.