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Mills Extends State Of Emergency, Strengthens Face Mask Requirements

Willis Ryder Arnold
Maine Public File
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow statue is donned with a mask in Portland in April, 2020.

Gov. Janet Mills has extended the civil state of emergency for another 30 days and is now requiring certain businesses in Maine’s coastal counties and largest cities to enforce a state mandate to wear masks.

Mills issued the new order Wednesday afternoon. It applies to retailers with more than 50,000 feet of retail space, lodging businesses, restaurants, outdoor bars and tasting rooms in the counties of York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Waldo and Hancock. It also applies to these businesses in the cities of Bangor, Brewer, Lewiston, Auburn and Augusta.

In a press release, the Mills administration says the order focuses on areas that attract tourists and larger congregations of people. The goal is to strengthen enforcement of previous orders issued in April and May that require individuals to wear face masks in public places where physical distancing is difficult and directs businesses to post signs notifying customers about the requirement.

Wearing face masks “may be inconvenient for some,” Mills said in a written statement, “but I also believe that Maine people care about each other, and this simple gesture is a small price to pay for knowing you could save someone’s life.”

Several other states have issued face mask mandates, including Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Texas and North Carolina. Because COVID-19 can be transmitted before someone feels sick and many people are asymptomatic, face masks are considered an important tool to prevent the virus’ spread.

Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah says that “research shows that face coverings help limit potential transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.” In a recent briefing on the coronavirus, Shah has said that wearing masks needs to become a norm.

Mills’ order is enforceable by any government official who regulates or authorizes affected businesses. The Mills administration has also created an online reporting form for alleged violations.