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Mills Delays July 1 Bar Reopening Indefinitely, As Maine Reports 14 New COVID-19 Cases

Willis Ryder Arnold
Maine Public
A closed restaurant in Portland, seen May 11, 2020.

Maine is delaying its date for reopening bars across the state for indoor service, tentatively scheduled for July 1. Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said officials decided to postpone allowing indoor service "until further notice" after new outbreaks in other states were traced to similar reopenings."Indoor service at bars presents a significantly elevated risk of transmitting disease," Lambrew said at a press briefing Monday.

The move comes after the Maine Center for Disease Control reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 since Sunday, and no additional deaths. 

Director Dr. Nirav Shah said while Maine's numbers remain relatively low, "At the same time, parts of the country are experiencing record numbers of daily cases, 4,000 in Florida alone" after reopening bars for indoor service.

"It can be completely empty and 30 minutes later be packed to the gills," said Shah. "In addition bars by their nature can be smaller so there's less space to physically distance if you wanted to. But, of course, a lot of folks go to bars far the exact reason which is to not physically distance."

Lambrew noted that Maine's guidelines currently allow outdoor bar service, and said that would continue.

Shah also addressed an outbreak of COVID-19 in Houlton, where seven people have tested positive for the disease, including four EMS providers with the Houlton Ambulance Service. Shah said the CDC is providing free testing in the Houlton region for those who might have come into close contact with members of the service from June 8 to the present. Testing will be available beginning today through Wednesday, he said.

Since the pandemic began, Maine has diagnosed a total of 2,971 cases of COVID-19, and 102 people have died from the disease.

There were no new hospitalizations overnight. Meanwhile, 2,406 of those infected with the disease have recovered, 15 more than Sunday. The number of active cases in Maine now stands at 463.

Updated at 2:37 p.m. June 22, 2020.

Barbara grew up in Biddeford, Maine. She earned a master’s in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s in English from the University of Southern Maine.