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Gov. Janet Mills shuts down more businesses

March 24, 2020
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Gov. Janet Mills is seen during the press conference held Tuesday afternoon from the Maine Emergency Management Authority in Augusta. She issued new orders shutting down additional businesses in Maine. Gov. Janet Mills is seen during the press conference held Tuesday afternoon from the Maine Emergency Management Authority in Augusta. She issued new orders shutting down additional businesses in Maine.

 

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AUGUSTA – Gov. Janet Mills elevated her previous state of emergency Tuesday and ordered all non-essential public-facing businesses such as gyms, hair salons, theaters, shopping malls and others to close at midnight Wednesday, March 25. The order is in effect for the next 14 days until April 8.

In making the announcement during a 2 p.m. press conference, Mills said she was not ordering the closure of grocery stores, pharmacies, food processing, home and auto repair, medical facilities, banks and other businesses deemed essential. However, she did recommend that large retailers like Walmart and others limit the amount of people in the store to 100 or less at any one time, increase curbside pickup services, stagger hours for employees and shoppers, close fitting rooms and sanitize customer touchpoints and hotspots.

“This is not the time to shop for clothes,” she said. “Just because a store is open doesn’t mean you should go there. It’s not the time for discretionary shopping. It’s the time for only essential activities for essential goods, services and products.”

Mills also ordered the closing of business sites that require more than 10 workers and where social distancing is not physically possible, which includes typical office and restaurant kitchen environments. She said business operations can continue for those companies if workers can work remotely. She added that state government offices were still working, and there have been no virus detections in any of the state-run correctional facilities.

The order Tuesday follows Mill’s previous orders to close dine-in service for eateries, a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people, and codifies her previous recommendations that theaters, shopping malls and retailers in general close. Bangor instituted a similar measure Sunday, March 22, which effectively shut down the same kinds of businesses beginning 6 p.m. that night.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday that the state now has 118 cases of COVID-19, up from 107 yesterday. While the rate of increased daily cases decreased from an average last week of 18 to 11, the virus is now present in 10 of Maine’s 16 counties with Waldo County experiencing its first case overnight.

According to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, 15 of those cases are hospitalized, seven have recovered, and 3,014 cases have tested negative. Shah said there are now three additional commercial labs providing testing services for COVID-19, augmenting two that have already been testing along with the state’s lab. Still, Shah said the backlog of tests is alarming.

“There are roughly 1,300 tests awaiting running at our laboratory,” he said. “That number is unacceptable to us, and we acknowledge that.”

He added the backlog is attributable to two factors: a national shortage of one of the test assay’s chemical agents necessary to run the tests and focusing available tests to those individuals who are highest at risk.

“We are working to acquire an additional piece of equipment that will help with the extraction process that is a part of the overall testing process,” he said. “We hope that that new and different piece of equipment will have a steadier supply of reagents.”

Shah also said about 22,000 pieces of protective equipment, including masks, face shields, gowns and gloves, was received from the federal Strategic National Stockpile and the Maine CDC began distributing that equipment Monday to 68 local fire and EMS agencies, 22 law enforcement units, 16 municipal emergency medical services, nine regional hospitals and state tribal authorities. He also said the state received a second shipment Tuesday morning.

“As of this morning, there are 77 total intensive care unit beds available, 248 ventilators available, and approximately 84 respiratory technicians who stand ready to assist,” he said.

Still, it’s the unknown that has Shah concerned. He said the cases that have been detected “represent only the tip of the iceberg” and even if you live in a county that has not yet had a recorded case, now is the time to act as if it does.

Mills said those Maine snowbirds who are currently living in other locales should stay put, as travel and interacting with others during that travel may expose them to the coronavirus.

“I think most states are recommending people stay where they are,” she said, adding aircraft are a textbook definition of a closed, crowded environment. “If you’re safe where you are, stay where you are.”

When asked if she had been tested, Mills said she had not.

“I don’t have any symptoms,” she responded. “I haven’t knowingly come into contact with anybody who is affected.”

Last modified on Monday, 30 March 2020 11:02

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