AUGUSTA — Governor Janet Mills announced Wednesday intentions to sign an Executive Order requiring Maine’s large retail stores, lodging establishments, restaurants, and outdoor bars and tasting rooms in the coastal counties of Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland, and York, and in the more populous cities of Bangor and Brewer and Lewiston and Auburn, to enforce the State’s face covering mandate.
The move comes as states across the country in the last week, such as North Carolina, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon, have implemented similar strong measures related to face coverings, given the evidence that masks significantly reduce transmission of the virus.
“Maine’s updated policy on visitors is a holistic review of public health metrics that have guided Maine’s fight against COVID-19 from the start,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. “Maine people should be proud of our successes to date, but residents and visitors alike must remain vigilant by wearing face coverings and practicing physical distancing and good hand hygiene.”
Additionally, the Governor announced she is exempting visitors from the States of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey from the 14-day quarantine requirement or negative COVID-19 testing alternative, effective July 3.
The decision comes after the Administration reviewed public health data in other states to determine the appropriateness of additional exemptions, like those previously extended to New Hampshire and Vermont.
In evaluating these exemptions, the Administration, according to a news release, takes into consideration several data measurements, which include but are not limited to, the prevalence of the virus and the positivity rates in other states.
In reviewing these metrics, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, for example, demonstrate a lower positive rate than Maine’s. Additionally, the prevalence of the virus in these states is similar and continues a downward trend.
“When our Administration unveiled the Keep Maine Healthy Plan last month, we said that we would continue to monitor public health data in other states and evaluate whether we could offer additional exemptions to Maine’s quarantine and testing requirements,” said Governor Mills. “In reviewing the objective metrics over recent days and weeks, the States of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York demonstrate low positivity rates and other encouraging trends in the prevalence of the virus. As a result, we will exempt these states from Maine’s quarantine or test policy. At the same time, as I have said repeatedly, we will continue to remain vigilant against this virus, and Maine people and visitors, as well as businesses and facilities operators, must take every step to protect themselves, their customers, and others around them. Especially seeing the dangerous trends in southern and southwestern states after they lifted restrictions dramatically, we have to take this virus seriously, and we must continue to protect one another.”
Last month, the Administration unveiled the Keep Maine Healthy Plan, which is a multilayered approach that aims to protect Maine people, protect visitors, and support Maine small businesses by reducing to the greatest extent possible COVID-19 risks associated with travel inherent to tourism. The plan includes three cornerstones: 1) testing as an alternative to the mandatory 14-day quarantine; 2) increasing symptom checks at places where visitors tend to go; and 3) supporting local COVID-19 prevention and protection measures.
“From the beginning of our reopening process, we have focused on protecting public health and supporting economic activity,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “Every day we work to strike that all important balance, and, with this move, believe we are taking another reasonable and responsible step forward.”
With the vast majority of Maine’s economy reopened under Stage 3 of the Restarting Maine’s Economy Plan, and with more people interacting, it is critical that Maine people and businesses take steps to protect themselves, their businesses, and others by wearing face coverings, keeping six feet apart whenever possible, and washing hands often with soap and warm water.
Adjusted for population, Maine ranks seventh lowest in the nation in terms of positive cases; ninth lowest in the nation in terms of deaths; sixth lowest in terms of patients ever-hospitalized out of the 36 states reporting; and fourth highest in the percentage of people who have recovered out of the 42 states reporting.