Maine Governor Janet Mills signed an executive order Thursday that effectively prevents the immediate eviction of tenants for the duration of the state of emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The order increases penalties for landlords that try to unlawfully evict tenants and extends the timeframe of the eviction process in the event Maine courts reopen before the state of emergency expires.
Governor Mills also announced the creation of a rental assistance program in partnership with MaineHousing that would provide $5 million in rent relief for qualifying families. Under the program, payments of $500 would be distributed to the landlords of tenants that meet income requirements and are unable to pay rent due to coronavirus shutdown. The payments, representing either full or partial payment of rent, would be sent to landlords under the condition that they agree not to evict the tenant(s) during the month in which the $500 payment is issued.
The order does not relieve a tenant of the obligation to pay rent to their landlord, however it does adjust timelines and delay the eviction process to give both parties the flexibility to meet payment deadlines and make partial payments during the state of emergency. The order terminates 30 days after the state of emergency.
Mills also sent a letter to Maine banks and credit unions “discouraging them in the strongest terms” from initiating residential and commercial foreclosures, and to pause any foreclosures in progress.
The governor announced the signing of the executive order Thursday at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s daily press breifing, and was joined by the center’s director, Dr. Nirav Shah, who provided an update on the COVID-19 situation in Maine.
Shah reported that the Maine CDC is aware of three new deaths caused by the virus, bringing the state’s coronavirus death toll to 27. Among the new deaths are a woman in her 70s from Waldo County, a man in his 70s from York County and a woman in her 80s from York County. The state has also confirmed 796 cases of COVID-19 in Maine, an increase of 26 cases since Wednesday.
To date, 130 people have been hospitalized at some time during their COVID-19 illness and 47 are actively hospitalized, including 27 people in regular hospital beds and 20 receiving care in intensive care units. Seven people statewide are on ventilators and 333 Mainers have recovered from the illness, an increase of 28 since the Maine CDC’s last update.
Dr. Shah also reported Thursday that the Maine CDC has confirmed the existence of community transmission of the virus in Androscoggin County. There are now four Maine counties where community transmission has been confirmed: Portland, York, Penobscot, and Androscoggin.
The Maine CDC also learned of another outbreak overnight at a long-term care facility, bringing the total number of outbreaks the Maine CDC is tracking at these facilities to five.
At the Tall Pines facility in Belfast, 35 infections have been confirmed. This represents an increase of 10 since Wednesday, with 8 new infections belonging to residents and two to staff. The Cedars retirement community in Portland has five confirmed cases of the virus, though the Maine CDC is waiting for testing results on a large number of specimens from this facility and anticipates to have the results of those tests by Friday.
At the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough there are 41 confirmed cases of the virus among residents and staff, an increase of 3 cases since Wednesday which have all been attributed to facility staff. The Augusta Center for Health and Rehabilitation has 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19 associated with the facility, 45 among residents and 25 among staff.
Dr. Shah said that, just a few hours before providing Thursday’s update, the Maine CDC learned of an outbreak at the Falmouth By the Sea assisted living facility and is aware of three confirmed cases associated with it. Per protocol, the Maine CDC shipped a large amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the facility, including 1,000 surgical masks, 1,000 gloves, 96 gowns of various sizes and 50 face shields to ensure staff at the facility have the proper protection they need to treat patients.
As of Thursday, the Maine CDC’s current PPE inventory encompasses 56,000 N95 masks, 140,000 surgical masks, 26,000 face shields, 227,000 gloves, 3,400 disposable protective suits and 10,000 surgical gowns.
On Wednesday, the Maine CDC pulled, packed and shipped an additional 40 orders of PPE, most of which was sent to congregate care facilities across the state. To date, the Maine CDC has filled orders for 933 distinct institutions, some of which have received multiple orders of PPE.
Shah also provided an update on the state’s critical healthcare resources, which includes 158 available beds in intensive care units, 313 available ventilators and 240 alternative ventilators, all of which are available.