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Gov. Mills extends stay-at-home order, outlines four-stage plan to reopen Maine

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Maine Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a news conference where she announced new plans for the stay-at-home order on April 28, in Augusta, Maine. Maine Gov. Janet Mills speaks at a news conference where she announced new plans for the stay-at-home order on April 28, in Augusta, Maine. (AP photo/Robert F Bukaty

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AUGUSTA – Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday extended her stay-at-home order with a new “Stay Safer at Home” executive order until May 31 and released a four-stage plan to begin reopening Maine’s economy starting Friday, May 1.

“I am proud of the work Maine people have done to mitigate the spread of the virus and to flatten the curve, but our work is far from over,” Mills said Tuesday. “While this plan presents a path forward for gradually and safely restarting our economy, it should not lure Maine people into thinking that this pandemic is almost over or that things will be back to normal soon,” Mills said Tuesday. “The hard truth is that they are not; that they likely will not be for a long time; and that, with this plan, we are inventing a new normal – a different way of doing business, shopping, traveling, and enjoying the Maine outdoors in ways that keep us all safe.”

Under the new executive order, which she said she would issue by Thursday, people would still stay at home with limited exceptions including grocery shopping or exercising. However, the new order will also allow Mainers to visit businesses or participate in activities deemed safe under the first stage of the plan.

The Maine CDC will be tracking three primary metrics in its evaluation of whether to progress through the stages:

  1.     A downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-like syndromic cases.

  2.     A downward trajectory of documented cases and newly hospitalized patients.

  3.     The capacity of Maine’s hospital systems to treat all patients without crisis care and the ability of the state to engage in a robust testing program.

Stage one of Mills’ plan focuses first on resuming those business operations and activities that can be conducted in a safe manner. This means that they involve a low risk for potential transmission of the virus. The earlier stages permit small businesses to reopen, but only with additional safety precautions. 

Progression through the stages will occur month-by-month, depending upon the success of previous stages. Stage 1 will begin on May 1 and if there are no new trends that change the plan, stage 2 will begin in June, stage 3 will begin in July and continue through August, and stage 4, which lifts the most restrictions, will start at a point to be determined in the future. A month-by-month breakdown of the stages allows sufficient time to assess the effectiveness of the health and safety precautions adopted and evaluate the potential need to adjust course.

Stage 1

Mills’ previous restrictions will stay in place and businesses currently allowed to operate - including financial institutions, pharmacies, grocery stores, home repair services, child care, and car repair services – will continue. Other businesses, religious and quality of life activities can begin to reopen starting Friday, including:

• Health care from Maine-licensed providers, with recommendations that they prioritize care for patients with time-sensitive conditions; assure the safety of patients, staff, and communities; manage the use of essential resources such as personal protective equipment and testing supplies; and pace re-opening services to the level of community COVID-19 activity, maintaining capacity in our hospitals for potential outbreaks

• Personal services: Barber shops, hair salons, and pet grooming

• Limited drive-in, stay-in-your-vehicle religious services

• Drive-in movie theaters

• Outdoor recreation: guided outdoor activities (hunting & fishing) and restricted use of golf and disc golf courses

• State parks, state-owned public land trails, and historic sites; although certain coastal state parks will remain closed

• Auto dealerships and car washes

Stage 1 will continue the prohibition of gathering of more than 10 people, the quarantine of all people entering Maine or returning to Maine for 14 days, and the special precautions for older residents and others at risk, especially in long-term care settings. It also calls for residents to work from home when possible, and wear cloth face coverings in public settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Stage 2

Tentatively beginning June 1, Stage 2 contemplates revising the limitation on gatherings from less than 10 people to less than 50 people. It also calls for people who can work from home to continue to do so but allows for employees in certain fields to begin to reenter the office as needed, including state employees. It maintains the 14-day quarantine for all people entering or returning to Maine and the special precautions for older Mainers and others at risk of COVID-19. With appropriate safety precautions, Stage 2 would allow for some degree of opening with reservations, capacity limits, and other measures for:

• Restaurants

• Fitness and exercise centers and nail technicians

• Retail stores for broader in-store shopping

• Lodging and campgrounds for Maine residents and those who have met the 14-day quarantine requirement

• Day camps for Maine children and those who have met the 14-day quarantine requirement

• Coastal State parks

Stage 3

Tentatively beginning July 1 and anticipating that it will run through August, Stage 3 contemplates maintaining the prohibition on gatherings of more than 50 people and other Stage 1 and Stage 2 restrictions, including the 14-day quarantine on people entering Maine. With appropriate safety precautions, Stage 3 would allow for some degree of opening for:

• Lodging, such as hotels, campgrounds, summer camps, or RV parks for Maine residents and visitors. The Administration is developing guidelines to assist them in safely reopening, and reservations should not be taken until those guidelines are issued. 

• Outdoor recreation such as charter boats and boat excursions 

• Bars

• Personal services such as spas, tattoo and piercing parlors, and massage facilities among others

Stage 4

With an undetermined timeline, Stage 4 contemplates lifting restrictions and allowing all businesses and activities to resume with appropriate safety precautions.

The stages outlined above are advanced as a framework for planning. Innovations or expanded testing and other capacity could accelerate this pace, as could a determination that certain parts of Maine, such as some rural areas, may be able to ease restrictions safely. At the same time, a surge in COVID-19 in parts or all of Maine could result in significant adjustments to this plan and a return to more restrictions.

The Mills Administration does not currently anticipate that it will be safe to accept cruise or commercial passenger ships with more than 50 people this summer. The Administration will review this assessment in September 2020. This prohibition excludes passenger ferries working between Maine ports. Additionally, the Administration is currently working with stakeholders to develop plans for a safe return to school in the fall.

Establishing Safety Precautions

In order to reopen, various sectors of Maine’s economy will be required to work with the Department of Economic and Community Development to implement practical, reasonable, evidence-informed safety protocols and modifications that protect the health and safety of employees and customers. These accommodations may be as simple as closing break rooms, providing flexible working hours, employee training, and installing plexiglass shields, or as complex as adjusting a business’ sales process and reducing occupancy to ensure employee and customer safety.

This collaboration between DECD and the private sector will result in what will be known as a COVID-19 Prevention Checklists. These checklists will identify best practices for the business specific to its operations as well as general best practices related to physical distancing, hygiene, personal protection, and maintenance of clean workplaces, among others. The checklists, which will differ sector to sector, will undergo a rigorous review process including from government officials, health experts, and industry representatives. Once completed, businesses that commit to complying with the requirements on the checklist will be provided a badge to post on their business door or website, their names will also be posted on the DECD website and they will be allowed to open. Health providers in Maine will follow U.S. CDC and professional association guidelines.

Last modified on Thursday, 07 May 2020 01:02


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