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Portland Councilors To Vote On Reinstating Mask Mandate Next Week

Maine Daily Life
Robert F. Bukaty
Fishing boats head out to sea, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, off Portland, Maine.

As the delta variant continues to infect and hospitalize more Mainers, Portland councilors are planning to vote on a citywide mask mandate next week.

On Wednesday, city officials held a workshop to discuss reinstating a mask mandate for public, indoor spaces, such as restaurants, stores and recreational facilities. The city is believed to be the first in Maine to take the step, but it would follow similar policies adopted by others in New England.

Portland Health & Human Services Director Kristen Dow told the councilors that with cases and hospitalizations on the rise, the city needs to act, especially with many children still unvaccinated.

"So again, we recommend that we do everything we can until we see numbers improve," Dow said. "And masking is one proven layer of protection against COVID-19."

Most councilors appeared to support a mask mandate, though some had questions about how long it would be in place and what health metrics would be used to determine when it should end.

Portland Mayor Kate Snyder said she's in favor of a mandate but wants staff to sort through issues such as possible exemptions to the policy and potential enforcement challenges.

"If we could act next Monday, it may give us the time we need to refine an amendment to our emergency order," Snyder said.

City staff say they plan to finalize the proposal over the next few days, including potential exemptions while eating or performing.

Cumberland County currently has the highest vaccination rate in Maine, with nearly 75% of residents receiving their final dose.