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Health

Janet Mills: Maine Businesses Must Remove Customers Who Won't Wear Masks

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Robert F. Bukaty
/
Associated Press
A tester takes a break after a steady stream of patients at a mobile testing location for COVID-19, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Auburn, Maine.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills is requiring business operators of all types to turn away customers who refuse to wear face masks.

The governor’s new executive order strengthens a previous statewide mask requirement that allowed business operators to ask customers to leave if they don’t comply with rules designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The new order now requires business owners to remove customers who don’t comply.

“Anyone who still insists on entering a store or other facility without wearing a mask, or insists on taking it off after getting inside, they can be and should be removed and charged with criminal trespassing,” she said.

Mills said during a Friday press briefing that the tougher requirement is in response to accelerating COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

She also said that the state is running out of tools to stem the spread of a disease short of returning to business closures and restrictions that the state implemented last spring.

“If today’s targeted restrictions don’t work more severe restrictions might be necessary,” she said.

Such restrictions might include stricter limits on gatherings, closing schools or imposing restrictions on business operations.

Mills says taking those steps will be more painful now than they were last spring, in part because there’s no more federal aid to offset business and school closures.

The Mills administration has attempted to strike a balance between protecting public health and allowing business activity.

The state’s infection rate is better than most, but cases are accelerating and the 345 additional infections reported Friday are well above its 14-day average.

Th stat also four additional deaths, in a man and a woman in their 80s from Hancock County, a woman in her 80s from Oxford County and a woman in her 70s from Penobscot County.

In all, 15,206 Mainers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 250 have died.

As the pandemic continues unabated, Maine health officials have now reviewed more than one million COVID-19 test results, according to Maine CDC director doctor Nirav Shah.

“As challenging as that is, as challenging as that has been and as challenging as it will be, the team at Maine CDC has continued to make sure that we are able to review those results and stay on top of where things stand,” he says.

Shah says the agency launched 14 new investigations in just the past two days, with several of those at schools.

Shah also reported that 182 people are currently in the hospital, 50 in critical care, and 16 on ventilators.