Inside Augusta

Gov. Mills issues new mandate for nonessential businesses to close for two weeks

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Maine Governor Janet Mills and Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, held a press conference Tuesday at 2 p.m. to provide an update on the outbreak of COVID-19 in Maine, where the governor issued a new mandate that public facing businesses close for the next 14 days.

Mills called on “nonessential businesses” – such as insurance offices and bookstores – that are public facing with customer, vendor or in-person contact, to close for two weeks, particularly businesses with physical locations that require more than 10 workers to convene in a space where physical distancing is not practical. This does not include essential businesses, such as trash collection, pharmacies, childcare, banks, gas stations and grocery stores.

For essential businesses that experience high volumes of contact with the public, the governor said additional precautionary measures should be taken. These measures include reducing congestion in stores with more than 5,000 square feet of retail space by limiting store capacity to no more than 100 people at a time. In addition, the governor called for establishments to enhance curbside delivery and pickup services, stagger hours for employees and consumers, close fitting rooms and sanitize shopping carts frequently.

The governor also noted that state government remains open, but most state work has moved online, with limited public engagement and physical distancing being practiced within all office buildings. Maine’s Department of Administrative and Financial Services estimates that 70 percent of state government employees are now working remotely.

Responding to news items that tourists are traveling to Maine in the midst of the outbreak, Governor Mills noted she cannot constitutionally close the state’s border, and that highway traffic patterns do not indicate a large influx of people coming to Maine. She did state that people from other states should not come here early for vacation or to try to avoid shelter-in-place orders issued by other states.

The governor said her staff and the Maine CDC are looking at how shelter-in-place orders are working in other states before taking action in Maine.

She also said that she has not extended Maine’s tax filing deadline and said states were displeased with the federal government’s action of extending the federal tax filing deadline to July 15.

At the press conference, Dr. Shah announced Maine now has 118 confirmed cases of COVID-19. More than 3,000 tests conducted in Maine have come back negative.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at Maine Policy Institute and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at Maine Policy. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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