Governor Mills Presents Gradual Plan to Restart Maine’s Economy
Governor Mills announced today she will extend the State’s stay-at-home order in the form of a new “Stay Safer at Home” Executive Order that will extend through May 31, 2020. The new Order will continue to have Maine people stay at home with limited exceptions for already permitted activities, such as grocery shopping or exercising. However, the new “Stay Safer at Home Order “will also allow for a four-stage gradual reopening of the economy, during which Maine people will be able to visit a limited range of businesses and participate in certain activities that are deemed safe to open. The stages focus on the ability of a business to operate or an activity to occur in a manner that protects public health and safety. The order comes as the State appears to be successfully flattening the curve, and is subject to change if necessary.
Stage 1, which begins May 1st, continues the prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people, the quarantine of all people entering or returning to Maine for a period of 14 days, and the special precautions for older Mainers and others at risk of COVID-19. It calls for people who are able to work from home to continue to do so, including State employees.
The order will newly require that Maine people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Stage 1 also allows for the limited expansion of certain business, religious, and quality of life activities, with appropriate safety precautions.
Health care from Maine-licensed providers, with recommendations that they prioritize care for patients with time-sensitive conditions; assure the safety of patients, staff, and communities; manage the use of essential resources such as personal protective equipment and testing supplies; and pace re-opening services to the level of community COVID-19 activity, maintaining capacity in our hospitals for potential outbreaks
Personal services: Barber shops, hair salons, and pet grooming
Limited drive-in, stay-in-your-vehicle religious services
Drive-in movie theaters
Outdoor recreation: guided outdoor activities (hunting & fishing) and restricted use of golf and disc golf courses
State parks, state-owned public land trails, and historic sites; although certain coastal state parks will remain closed
Auto dealerships and car washes
Progression through the stages will occur month-by-month, depending on the success of previous stages. For example, Stage 2 will begin in June if there are no new trends that change the plan, and Stage 3 will begin in July and continue through August. Stage 4, which lifts the most restrictions, will start at a point to be determined in the future. A month-by-month breakdown of the stages allows for sufficient time to assess the effectiveness of the health and safety precautions adopted and evaluate the potential need to adjust course.
The month-by-month plan should not be considered a hard and fast timeline. If Maine CDC detects a resurgence of the virus, the State will move quickly to halt progression through the stages and reimplement restrictions to protect public health and safety.
Maine continues to see COVID-19 activity, with an increase of 17 cases since yesterday, for a total of 1040 cases. Of those cases, 245 are among health care workers. Fifty-one people have died in Maine from the coronavirus thus far. However, in recent days, numbers of cases have leveled off, giving Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, confidence that Maine is headed in the right direction. In addition, he believes the health care system has developed sufficient capacity to handle infections.
“I am proud of the work Maine people have done to mitigate the spread of the virus and to flatten the curve, but our work is far from over,” said Governor Janet Mills. “While this plan presents a path forward for gradually and safely restarting our economy, it should not lure Maine people into thinking that this pandemic is almost over or that things will be back to normal soon. The hard truth is that they are not; that they likely will not be for a long time; and that, with this plan, we are inventing a new normal – a different way of doing business, shopping, traveling, and enjoying the Maine outdoors in ways that keep us all safe.”
Stage 2, tentatively scheduled to begin June 1st, contemplates revising the limitation on gatherings from less than 10 people to less than 50 people. It also calls for people who can work from home to continue to do so but allows for employees in certain fields to begin to reenter the office as needed, including State employees. It maintains the 14 day quarantine for all people entering or returning to Maine and the special precautions for older Mainers and others at risk of COVID-19. With appropriate safety precautions, Stage 2 would allow for some degree of opening of restaurants, fitness and exercise centers and nail technicians, retail stores for broader in-store shopping, and day camps for Maine children.
In order to reopen, various sectors of Maine’s economy will be required to work with the Department of Economic and Community Development to implement practical, reasonable, evidence-informed safety protocols and modifications that protect the health and safety of employees and customers. These accommodations may be as simple as closing break rooms, providing flexible working hours, employee training, and installing plexiglass shields, or as complex as adjusting a business’ sales process and reducing occupancy to ensure employee and customer safety.