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Maine’s top economic development official on Wednesday teased additional early business openings in rural counties and a broader approach to the 14-day quarantine requirement aimed at stemming coronavirus transmission.
Heather Johnson, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, gave few details on a webinar with businesspeople, but more detailed checklists for businesses set to open June 1 were posted Wednesday on the department’s website, covering l arge social gatherings, those in public buildings, day and overnight camps for Maine children and non-professional sports.
Asked if she would consider additional early openings for rural counties, Johnson said “it is being considered” by the administration of Gov. Janet Mills. She said officials talk multiple times a week about what, if anything, can be layered into the current reopenings.
Mills allowed some early business reopenings in 12 rural towns without community spread of the coronavirus. Retail stores in those counties were allowed to reopen on May 11 provided they adhered to certain public health precautions, while restaurants could open for limited dine-in services on May 18. Those businesses can reopen in the other four counties on June 1.
With the tourism industry still railing against the 14-day quarantine mandate for out-of-state guests, Johnson said her department is coordinating daily with the governor’s office, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to find a solution. She said officials in tourist areas are examining alternatives to the quarantine including random temperature screenings or symptom-checking.
“We certainly recognize the urgency and that people are making their summer decisions now,” she said. However, she could not give further details nor a timeline to implement them.
Questioned on whether she would consider tailoring checklists to different sizes of businesses, she said she would consider tailoring the checklists to include two or three options to better suit large or small businesses.
Johnson focused her answers on gym, chartered tour, pool and other openings around safe distancing and limits to the number of people gathered. Only 10 people can gather now at social gatherings and large community events such as weddings, but that will be increased to 50 on June 1.
Other answers focused on how to keep areas clean, for example, whether a bicycle rental shop should just disinfect equipment or let the bikes sit dormant for several days to assure the virus has died.
Johnson said guidance for the fall is not yet set, but urged convention and other visitors to “not cancel ‘til the last possible date.”
Watch: Janet Mills shares changes for rural businesses