Portland Mayor: Unless Your Trip Is Essential 'Stay At Home'

Mar 25, 2020

The city of Portland will institute an emergency stay-at-home order for non-essential personnel and business services beginning Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. Portland Mayor Kate Snyder spoke with Maine Public's Jennifer Mitchell to discuss that order.

Jennifer Mitchell: So how did you come to the decision to do this?

Mayor Kate Snyder: After a lot of discussions and thought, and looking at data and looking at trends and talking with folks, the city manager at the end of the day on Monday said, "I think this is the direction that I want to go in." And I knew that I and other councilors were in support of this action - making the decision to have kind of an emergency requirement to stay at home. It's really all about flattening that trendline, and reducing or steadying the number of new cases per day.

So more than half of the identified cases of COVID-19 in Maine are in Cumberland County. How is the stay-at-home order intended to protect people going forward?

Well, so what we know about this virus is that it's a person-to-person virus, and the more exposure that we have to other people - people outside of our small family unit or a kind of a living unit - the more exposure we get to people beyond those limits, the more likely it is that, you know, you can catch this virus. And so the intention here in Portland - and we really hope that other towns and cities in Cumberland [County] and York County will do the same thing - and some already have - is to limit folks' exposure.

Can you just briefly detail who's affected by [the order] - just the rundown of what people are going to want to know if they are affected or not? What can they do? What can they not do?

The proclamation really centers around this idea of essential services. And so we're asking people to stay at home unless they need to address specific needs. And those needs are spelled out in the exhibit which is attached to the proclamation, which is on the city's website. I know I've posted it - most councilors have posted it - on social media. The newspaper did a great job this morning, helping to spread the word about what is considered essential. What this does not mean is that you cannot leave your house, period. This is a recognition that people are still going to need to access health care and pharmacies and grocery stores. And so all of the business associated with things having to do with food and getting food for you and your family, we recognize that those things are important. We also recognize the people who work in the industries that support all of that food supply are important, and are essential. And then we go on to talk about gas stations and auto repair and banks and financial institutions and hardware stores. And so there's a whole long list of the things that actually qualify as essential services. So either you as a consumer can access those things, or people who work in those fields can still go to work and still provide those services. What we're doing is we're saying unless you need to get out for these essential things, stay at home. If we're all cautious and we're all taking that step, it will actually decrease the amount of time that we need to do this seclusion and isolation exercise, because the rate of infection will slow.

So how does the city plan to enforce the order? What if people just don't do it?
There is enforcement tied into the order. So, basically, what we say is that folks who fail to comply will be subject to a fine. The thing is - and what I really want to emphasize - is that this is not about punishment. This is about encouragement of behaviors that are healthy. There is this component that talks about violation and failure to comply and a $500 fine. But really, what we want people walking away with much, much more is how is my behavior going to change to keep myself safe, to keep my family, neighbors, friends - I mean, this is really not about just us, just me, just you. This is about the broader community. And as we see those numbers creeping up, we know that this is spreading and we know we're not immune. And we see what happens in other places. Yesterday in the press conference, I was saying to folks how important it is to talk with experts. I mean, I'm not an expert. I'm not an expert in public health. I'm not an expert in the medical field. But there are people who are and they are advising this kind of action.

Portland Mayor Kate Snyder. Thank you.

Thank you so much.
That's Portland Mayor Kate Snyder discussing the city's decision to issue an emergency stay-at-home order that will go into effect Wednesday at 5:00 p.m.