Non-essential businesses across state issued new restrictions

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AUGUSTA – Governor Janet Mills ordered non-essential, public-facing businesses across the state to close their physical locations for the next 14 days, effective tomorrow, in a reinforcement of last week’s recommendation.

Mills announced the order at a press conference held Tuesday afternoon. At that same conference, Maine Center for Disease Control Director Nirav Shah said that 118 people from 10 counties had tested positive for novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. A total of 3,014 tests have come back negative. A total of 74 cases have been reported in Cumberland County, with mostly single-digit numbers of cases in nine other counties, including today’s addition of Waldo County. Shah has repeatedly asked Mainers to assume that COVID-19 in their own communities.

“Maine people should live their lives as if COVID-19 is in their community,” said Shah. “Physical distancing in every part of Maine is crucial to limit potential spread of the virus. You can be there for loved ones without being in the same place.”

The Executive Order, signed by the governor under the authority granted by the State of Civil Emergency, reinforces the March 18 recommendation that all non-essential businesses in Maine close physical locations that are public facing, meaning those that allow customer, vendor or other in-person contact. The order also closes non-essential business sites that require more than ten workers to convene in a space where physical distancing is not possible.

“Today, I am taking further action to mitigate the spread of the virus, to protect the health of our loved ones and fellow citizens, and to safeguard the capacity of our health care system,” said Mills in a statement. “I recognize these decisions will create significant difficulties for people and businesses across our state, but we are confronting an unprecedented challenge that is threatening the health and safety of our people.”

Non-essential businesses and operations subject to the Governor’s Executive Order include, but are not limited to, shopping malls, fitness and exercise gyms, spas, barber shops, hair salons, tattoo and piercing parlors, massage facilities, nail technicians, cosmetologists and estheticians, electrolysis services, laser hair removal services, and similar personal care and treatment facilities and services.

The Executive Order excludes businesses that provide essential services including, but not limited to: food processing, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, construction, trash collection, grocery and household goods (including convenience stores), home repair and hardware and auto repair, pharmacy and other medical facilities, biomedical, behavioral health and health care providers, child care, post offices and shipping outlets, insurance, banks, gas stations, laundromats, veterinary clinics and animal feed and supply stores, shipping stores, public transportation, and hotel and commercial lodging.

Owners of businesses not listed here, but who do believe their business qualifies as essential may request that designation here: https://www.maine.gov/essentialservice. Questions may also be directed to business.answers@maine.gov.

The Maine State Chamber of Commerce issued a statement in support of the order, with President Dana Connors saying that “the number one priority at this time is safeguarding the public’s health.”

“Adhering to the governor’s order will protect everyone’s health, the health of fellow citizens, the health of workers on the frontlines, and the capabilities of our hospital systems to care for those in need,” Connors said. “The sooner we take these actions to flatten the curve of COVID-19, the sooner we will get through this and Maine can get back to business.”

State government remains open, but offices have significantly moved to work remotely, limited client engagement and have required physical distancing within office buildings. The Department of Administrative and Financial Services estimated that 70 percent of state government employees are working remotely. The governor urges Maine people to avail themselves of the state’s online services and resources.

For those essential businesses that remain open, Mills strongly urged them to implement physical distancing measures. She specifically urged high-traffic retail stores in Maine that provide essential goods and services to immediately employ strategies to reduce congestion in their stores, including.

  • For stores with a physical retail space of more than 5,000 feet, limiting customers to no more than 100 at any one time;
  • Enhancing their curbside pick-up and delivery services;
  • Staggering their hours for shoppers of a certain age;
  • Closing fitting rooms;
  • Cautioning customers against handling merchandise they are not purchasing;
  • Marking six-foot measurements by the cashier stations and reminding customers to remain six feet apart while in store;
  • Staggering break times for employees and require frequent hand-washing;
  • Frequently sanitizing high-touch areas, such as shopping carts.

Recommendations from public health professionals is for people to practice physical distancing and take the same preventive measures they would to avoid catching a cold: wash hands often for 20 seconds, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home if sick.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, shortness of breath and lower respiratory distress. Call ahead to a health care professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness. Health care providers will make the initial determination on whether COVID-19 testing is necessary.

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