Towns begin to adjust to rising COVID-19 cases

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — As COVID-19 case numbers rise in the state, towns here are beginning to take measures to keep their employees and citizens safe.  

Tremont and Mount Desert are now requiring people to wear masks when conducting business or attending meetings at their town offices.  

“It was just getting to the point where the news reports were getting worse every day,” said Mount Desert Town Manager Durlin Lunt.  

Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor have yet to implement mask mandates but are encouraging the use of them when in the town’s buildings. 

“We have signs posted at the town office requesting people wear masks,” said Interim Town Manager Dana Reed on Tuesday.  

On the state’s Division of Disease Surveillance website Tuesday, Hancock County had the lowest case rate per 10,000 people in the state at just under 300.  

Each town is also beginning to take precautions when it comes to conducting board and committee meetings. In Tremont, Mount Desert and Bar Harbor, some boards have adopted a remote participation policy that allows members to attend a meeting remotely. 

“We are hearing from some folks that they are concerned about coming to meetings in person,” said Bar Harbor Town Clerk Liz Graves.  

Southwest Harbor’s Select Board members decided at their last meeting to begin gathering at the town’s fire station on Main Street beginning in September. Tremont and Bar Harbor are spacing out seating at meetings to keep people safe distances apart. At a recent busy board meeting in Bar Harbor, masks were being handed out at the door to members of the public.   

Gov. Janet Mills’s state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic ended on June 30. Mills signed into law the act regarding remote participation in public proceedings on June 21. It does not extend to annual town meetings or school budget meetings and is not in effect until each board and committee in a town has voted to adopt it for their meetings.  

A policy drafted by the Maine Municipal Association that encapsulates the law has been presented to municipalities for adoption, unless they want to draft one of their own.  

“So far, most of our boards have (adopted the policy), one or two maybe haven’t met yet,” said Lunt. “We get much more attendance now remotely than we do in person. I’m just pleased to have that option.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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