Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support our critical reporting on the coronavirus by purchasing a digital subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.
Maine’s response to the coronavirus began in March with a series of orders that brought the activity of many businesses to a halt. Some of those businesses reopened on May 1 while complying with a series of ever-changing orders amid Gov. Janet Mills’ phased reopening plan.
The Bangor Daily News asked readers to provide their questions about the reopening. We will continue to answer them on a rolling basis as we report on them and more come in. If you have a question, you can ask it here.
How is everyone supposed to obtain a cloth mask? — Edward, Veazie
“Cloth face coverings” is the proper term here. In an order that took effect on May 1, Mills told Mainers to wear those coverings — which must cover your nose and mouth — in places where it is hard to keep your distance from others, such as stores, busy outdoor spaces and public transportation.
The Bangor Daily News has published a guide to making them yourself. One of the easiest methods requires a T-shirt and rubber bands. You can also use a bandana, neck cover or a scarf. Almost everyone has some of that stuff lying around the house.
When will short-term rentals to folks from out of state be allowed?
July, it seems, though the lodging provisions under Mills’ different sets of orders are confusing and somewhat onerous and the industry is signaling that they may be changed. They do, however, apply to most types of lodging evenly, from hotels to AirBnbs and short-term rentals.
In early April, the governor suspended most lodging operations. Her reopening plan limits lodging opens up lodging as of June to Maine residents and people who have met a 14-day quarantine requirement. Access to lodging would expand further into July.
HospitalityMaine, an industry group, has reported that it has gotten more clarification on those orders, telling members in a Friday message that they can book reservations for Maine residents only in June and all visitors in July and onward. It also said the phases could be shortened by the Mills administration, so stay tuned for that.
I work at a supermarket where most of my coworkers and many of our customers have not been wearing face coverings. As of Friday, will it be up to my employer to ensure that any customer coming in the store wears a facial covering and any employee working in the store wears one? — Robert, Calais
Enforcement is a gray area. The order accompanying Mills’ economic reopening plan announced this week requires Mainers to wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing is difficult as of Friday. Grocery stores are such a place.
The order, however, does not mention enforcement of such a standard. Christine Cummings, the executive director of the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association, said on Thursday afternoon that she expected further guidance on the issue from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.
To re-open a business, I heard or read you need a sticker from the state. Is that true and if so, how do I get that? — Terry, Belfast
You don’t need a badge, but you do need to follow state regulations. To re-open, business owners must follow public health guidelines available on the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development’s website. The site includes different checklists for different industries, and business owners must fill out an online form committing to adhering to the measures for their industry.
Businesses that complete that form are eligible to receive a sticker or badge in the future, though the department is still developing what that badge would look like. Filling out the form is the necessary prerequisite; the badge is not. A retail industry official described the badge as “more of a marketing tool” to instill consumer confidence.
Friends want to come up to a camp on Lake Arrowhead for two weeks. What are the quarantine implications? — Real St. Pierre, Limerick
It is allowed, though gatherings of more than 10 people are banned in Maine. Mills issued an order in early April requiring people to quarantine for two weeks if they are residents traveling back to Maine or non-residents traveling to the state.
However, travelers and their hosts would be wise to consider recommendations from the U.S. CDC to practice social distancing by staying at least six feet from people outside their household and not to gather in groups.
I am wondering if it is now OK to gather in small groups with friends and family as long as less than 10 people are together. If so, is this allowed in homes or private properties, only outdoors, or at local businesses that are open? — Melinda, Albion
The same answer as above mostly applies. These types of gatherings are allowed on private property. Restaurants are closed to dine-in customers and many other stores that are open are asking families to leave shopping to one household member, so there are not many good places for even small public gatherings at this point.
For most people, holding these gatherings is a matter of whether they are wise. The CDC says everyone should limit both indoor and outdoor contact with people outside their households, especially given that people can spread the virus without knowing they are sick.
If you live in Berwick and shop in New Hampshire, must you quarantine for 14 days when finished? — Joseph, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
No. Mills’ quarantine order exempted people engaging in essential services as defined in an earlier order. That includes essential tasks like grocery shopping. On the other side of the border, Gov. Chris Sununu has urged people coming to New Hampshire for extended stays to self-quarantine, but that does not apply to day trips for essentials or family visits.
When can Airbnbs open? If it is not until July 1, can I get my refund back for a June booking? — Gail, York
Maybe. Airbnb’s coronavirus policy allows hosts and guests to cancel bookings made before March 14 with a check-in date before May 31 without penalty and receive a refund or credit. For later bookings, the company says that usual cancellation policies apply. Some hosts are offering full or partial refunds, but they’re not required to right now.