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Janet Mills Lifts Indoor and Outdoor Capacity Limits, Distancing Requirements Starting May 24

Janet Mills
Robert F. Bukaty
Gov. Janet Mills speaks to reporters, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020 at the State House in Augusta, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Governor Janet Mills announced Thursday that she's lifting capacity and physical distancing requirements for both outdoor and indoor settings starting May 24. Mills says Maine's top-in-the nation vaccination rates for COVID-19 allow the state to ease restrictions. But there are some exceptions.

The exceptions include settings where people need to remove masks to eat and drink. Because Maine's indoor mask requirement remains in effect, physical distancing will still be required in indoor restaurants, bars, break rooms, and dining halls. But at all other indoor and outdoor venues, distancing and capacity limits will no longer be required come May 24.

The changes are prompted by Maine's progress in COVID-19 vaccinations. On Wednesday, the state hit a milestone as more than 70% of the adult population had received at least one dose of the vaccine. That's well ahead of President Joe Biden's national goal of July 4. Mills says that lifting some safety protocols is appropriate, but people should still be cautious.

"I want to be clear. We're still living through a pandemic, and these changes don't come without some risk, especially for those who remain unvaccinated," Mills said. "Please, I beg you, use common sense. Please protect yourself, your families, your communities by getting vaccinated."

Mills' announcement Thursday came just as the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its own guidance relaxing safety restrictions. The federal agency says fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or distance in any setting. But states do have leeway to enact stricter requirements. And officials with the Mills administration say for now, they're sticking with their own protocols, which they say balance public health while opening up opportunities for businesses.