With COVID-19 cases rising, more public measures are put in place

AUGUSTA — Following an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and positivity rates in Maine, the Mills Administration announced new measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Beginning Friday, Nov. 20, through Sunday, Dec. 6, all outdoor and indoor amusement venues, movie theaters, performing arts venues, casinos and businesses that provide seated food and drink service, including social clubs, restaurants and bars and tasting rooms currently open for outdoor service, will close for the night by 9 p.m. This limit on hours is designed to limit extended gatherings at a time when many students and family members are returning to Maine and at a time when social gatherings are more common, both of which will likely lead to more COVID-19 transmission.

This latest measure is consistent with actions taken by other states, including MassachusettsRhode IslandVermont and New York, which require early business closures to minimize extended evening gatherings while preserving standard business operating hours.

“As we enter the colder months and a holiday season when we customarily gather with friends and family, we are also entering a new and dangerous phase of the pandemic,” said Gov. Mills. “Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have been performing a balancing act, basing our decisions on science and medical expertise, weighing the safety of reopening with the necessity of getting back to business. This targeted and temporary step will reduce extended gatherings while keeping the businesses open. Other steps may be necessary in the coming weeks if we do not get this virus under control. I ask all Maine people, please wear your face covering, wash your hands, watch your distance and avoid hosting or attending gatherings with friends and loved ones unless it is absolutely necessary. Returning to normal life sometime next year first requires us to survive the holidays this year.”

On Nov. 18, Maine reported 215 new cases, one additional death of a woman in her 40s, 88 current hospitalizations and a seven-day test positivity rate of 2.66 percent.

“Every part of Maine is seeing community transmission,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Each of us can help limit further spread of the virus by considering how our actions affect others. Extended gatherings provide an opportunity for the virus to infect others. At this time of year, those others are more likely to be loved ones. By adjusting or delaying our shared celebrations, we deny the virus that opportunity and demonstrate our respect and care for others.”

“The course that the COVID-19 pandemic takes in our state over the coming weeks and months is up to the people of Maine,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “We know what works to limit the spread of this virus: wearing face coverings, avoiding gatherings, keeping distance and washing our hands. This campaign will remind us of actions we can take to keep our loved ones and communities safe and healthy.”

The Mills Administration is working with the Attorney General’s Office to provide clear guidance to businesses on current public health requirements and their right to enforce those requirements to protect the health of their customers and staff. That guidance is forthcoming and will be released publicly.

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