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Health

Janet Mills Revamps COVID-19 Reopening Plan

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Robert F. Bukaty
/
Associated Press
Hollie Maloney, a pharmacy technician, loads a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, at the Portland Expo in Portland, Maine.

Gov. Janet Mills announced on Friday a phased-in easing of restrictions on gatherings and travel, as Maine continues to increase its COVID-19 vaccination rate and reports fewer cases and deaths.

Mills stresses that heading into the spring, Maine will continue to call for social distancing and masking, the same policies that have helped the state curb the spread of the virus that has killed over 700 Mainers.

“We have good COVID numbers, we have done a great job with cooperation from the public and the private sector. Great job keeping our case count low and increasing our vaccination rate,” she says.

Effective immediately, Mills says travelers from all the New England states will no longer have to prove they have been tested for the virus or quarantine for 10 days. The policy also exempts travelers from any state that have recently had COVID-19 or are fully vaccinated.

Effective May 1, testing and quarantine will no longer be required of travelers from any state, unless there are concerns about COVID-19 rates in specific states.

As of March 26, bars and wine tasting rooms will be allowed to operate indoors. Indoor gatherings and businesses will be expanded to 50% of capacity, then up to 75% starting May 24. For outdoor gatherings the cap goes to 75% of capacity March 24 and to full capacity May 24.

“This timeline provides our hospitality and retail and other industries with a clear idea of what to expect. Of course, we maintain the flexibility to adjust these figures if necessary, which means if things go south on us we could dial down capacity limits,” she says.

The new policies are drawing praise from several business groups for balancing public health with the needs of Maine’s business owners.

The changes come as the Maine Center for Disease Control identifies another 225 cases of COVID-19 on Friday, after more than a week of new case numbers below 200.

The agency has identified a total of 45,452 cases in the state since the pandemic began. The death toll in Maine has been lowered by one to 704. On Monday, the CDC announced a similar removal after a death was found not to meet the criteria to be considered coronavirus-related.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah says the agency has identified the South African COVID-19 strain in an individual from Cumberland County. A third case of the UK variant has also been found within the state.

More than 390,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in the state.