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Mills Announces Accelerated Reopening Plan In 3 Maine Counties, As CDC Reports 17 New COVID-19 Cases

Caitlin Troutman
Maine Public file
Arabica Coffee in Portland in May.

The Mills administration is continuing to relax restrictions on businesses across the state imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Janet Mills announced on Monday that, following a plateauing of new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks in Androscoggin, Cumberland and York counties, indoor dining in those three counties may voluntarily resume this coming Wednesday, June 17, with added health and safety precautions.

“Not all restaurants may be ready to open. Not all may choose to open this Wednesday. But I know that there are many who have been waiting anxiously for this announcement and many who have the resources to implement these health and safety measures and begin serving customers,” Mills says.

She says, with this change, restaurants statewide will be open to both inside and outside dining with added precautions.

Mills also announced that, as of this Wednesday, bars, breweries and tasting rooms in the 3 counties will be permitted to open for outdoor, seated service just as in the state’s other 13 counties.

“And gyms, nail salons and tattoo parlors may also reopen in those counties, all with added health and safety protocols,” she says.

Sean Sullivan is executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, which has voiced displeasure with the state’s previous plan to not let tasting rooms open at all for outdoor service before July 1. Sullivan says brewers make most of their money in June, July and August, and being able to open even a couple of weeks earlier than anticipated in the three southern counties will make a huge difference.

“The breweries, particularly in York County, have been really suffering as New Hampshire reopened and the business from people in those communities went south of the border,” he says.

Mills also announced that the state is expanding the number of people who’ll be able to enter retail establishments statewide. Up to 5 people will be allowed per 1,000 square feet of public space.

Mills says if a review of epidemiological data shows evidence of a concerning increase in COVID-19, some of the restrictions that have been lifted could be reimplemented in order to protect the public health and safety.

The Maine Center for Disease Control reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 in Maine and one additional death. Maine had gone 5 days without reporting any additional deaths.

Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said a total of 2,189 Mainers infected with COVID-19 have recovered, 16 more than Sunday, leaving 520 active cases in the state.

Maine’s one death, the first in five days, occurred in Androscoggin County, where four of the 17 new cases were reported. Eleven new cases were reported in Cumberland County.

Health care workers account for 709 of Maine’s cases, Shah said.

Shah said two outbreaks the CDC was tracking have been closed. One was at Durgin Pines in Kittery and the other at a Cianbro work site. Shah said officials have determined that the disease spread at the Cianbro site due to workers sharing housing and socializing after work hours.

He said Maine is still following outbreaks at Nichols Manufacturing in Portland and Abbott Labs in Scarborough.

A total of 317 people have had to be hospitalized sometime during the course of their illness. Thirty-one are currently in the hospital, 11 of them in intensive care, and four are on ventilators.

Mills urged Mainers to continue to follow health and safety guidelines, warning that the illness still poses a significant risk. “We’re not letting down our guard, not one bit, not one whit,” she said.

Shah announced that beginning this week, the CDC’s regular COVID-19 media briefings will be held only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Updated at 5:23 p.m. ET, June 15, 2020.