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WATCH: Mills Orders 'Public Facing' Maine Businesses To Close As COVID-19 Cases Rise To 118

Nick Woodward
Maine Public

Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday issued an executive order that mandates all nonessential businesses and operations to close public-facing locations for two weeks.

The order also requires closure for all nonessential businesses where more than 10 workers convene in a space where physical distancing is not possible.

“This mandates what I had previously recommended for nonessential business across the state,” she said at a press conference announcing the order on Tuesday. “Nonessential businesses and operations can continue those activities that do not allow customer, vendor or other visitor in-person contact.”

Mills also urged essential businesses such as grocery stores to immediately employ strict strategies to reduce congestion. Those include recommendations that stores larger than 5,000 square feet only allow up to 100 customers inside a time.

Mills also asked stores to close fitting rooms, enhance curbside pick-up and mark out measurements by cashier stations to remind customers to stay at least six feet apart. She also asked Mainers to be mindful about how often they shop — to go out only for essentials and only when necessary.

"Just because a store is open doesn't mean it's safe for you to go there. And it doesn't mean you should take your whole family there. It means commonsense practices. Like make a list and send one person to the store, after calling for curbside delivery, to get only those things you need," she said.

Mills said Maine must take these steps now to minimize the spread of the coronavirus and hopefully avoid mandating further restrictions in the future.

Credit Nick Woodward / Maine Public
Maine Public
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah briefs the media Monday, March 23, 2020.

There are now 118 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state. State Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah urged residents to assume that the disease caused by the coronavirus is in their county and to practice physical distancing, even if a case hasn’t yet been confirmed.

“The absence of evidence of cases in your county is not evidence of absence,” he said.

Shah said the state has a backlog of 1,300 tests to process. He said three additional commercial labs can now process test results, and the CDC is working to buy additional equipment to increase capacity.

Mills’ order begins at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, March 25, and ends at midnight on April 8.

Originally published March 24, 2020 at 12:06 p.m. ET.