Face coverings must now be worn in public settings regardless of how far apart you are from other people
Maine recorded 183 new cases of COVID-19 on November 4, which is the highest single-day increase since the beginning of the pandemic. Experts are alarmed by the escalating case counts and Governor Janet Mills has issued an Executive Order requiring Maine people to wear face coverings in public – whether or not they are close to others.
Additionally, owners and operators of all indoor public settings in Maine must now post plainly visible signs notifying entrants of the requirement to wear cloth face coverings and may deny service or entry to those who do not wear masks. Previously, only certain types of businesses like large retail businesses were responsible for implementing measures requiring customers to wear face coverings.
Papy Bongibo, President of the Congolese Community of Maine, urged his community to follow the Governor’s orders. “We have been saying since the beginning of the pandemic that people should follow the CDC and State guidelines. I’m going ask all Mainers to please follow the new instructions on how to protect themselves and their families by listening to the Governor.”
Wearing a face covering is proven to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19. Maine’s 7-day positivity rate, while still significantly lower than other states, has more than doubled in the past two weeks and hospitalizations have also increased dramatically.
John Ochira, President of the South Sudanese Community of Maine, said, “The more disciplined we are about following safety precautions, the more likely we are to defeat the virus and enjoy freedom. I urge all community members to take this mandate seriously and wear a mask consistently outside the house. It is for our own benefit.”
Face coverings are required for all children age 5 and older in public settings, including school and childcare settings, and are recommended for children ages 2 to 4 unless deemed developmentally inappropriate. Exemptions continue to exist for those who have serious medical conditions or who are otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
“This deadly and dangerous virus is spreading all across our state,” said Governor Mills. “Protect your family. Protect a health care worker. Protect the elderly. Wear your face covering. Save lives. It is that simple.”
Governor Mills has also issued an Executive Order that reduces indoor gathering limits. Effective Wednesday, November 4, indoor gatherings returned to a maximum of 50 people, regardless of capacity. The gathering limit on outdoor activities remains at 100 people under existing guidelines, with physical distancing and the use of face coverings. Occupancy limits for retail establishments remains at 5 people per 1,000 square feet of shopping space.
“Maine is experiencing widespread community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Wearing face coverings and staying at least six feet away from others when out in public are ways that every person in Maine can limit potential spread of the virus to help make their communities and homes safer.”
Dr. Shah and Governor Mills have both warned that indoor gatherings are dangerous, and have warned that Mainers should avoid – or at least greatly minimize – indoor gatherings with people outside the immediate household. They have expressed concern that people are letting down their guard due to ‘pandemic fatigue’ and community leaders report that the state’s move into Phase 4 of the re-entry plan confused some people. They urge community members to watch the numbers, follow the rules, and recognize that COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly, and that the virus can sicken anybody. Governor Mills calls the virus ‘the silent enemy among us.’
Black and brown people count for a disproportionately high percentage of cases both in Maine and nationwide. Frequently cited reasons for the dramatic disparity along racial lines include policies that help keep Black or African American Mainers – many of them immigrants – in front-line jobs; using public transportation to get to work; living in crowded housing, which makes social distancing either very difficult, or impossible. In Maine, white people make up 94.4% of the population, and are dying at a rate of 10 deaths per 100,000 people. Black or African American people account for 22 deaths per 100,000 people. Nationwide, Black people are dying at 2.3 times the rate of white people.