More than a dozen people gathered in Augusta on Thursday, May 28 to protest Gov. Janet Mills' delay in reopening some Maine restaurants. Credit: Mike Hartford | CBS13

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About a dozen protesters gathered in Augusta on Thursday to protest Gov. Janet Mills’ decision to delay the reopening of restaurants in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties beyond June 1 due to increased hospitalizations from the new coronavirus.

Capitol Police Chief Russell J. Gauvin said that the protest was peaceful, the fifth such event since Mills declared a state of emergency with the discovery of Maine’s first case of COVID-19 infection in March. A Twitter post from the scene indicated that the protesters claimed they had been issued a $50 summons for having more than 10 people gathered, but Gauvin said that no law enforcement action was taken. An investigation into the protest is continuing, he said.

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Mills discussed on Wednesday her decision to delay the restaurant reopenings’ beyond June 1. She said that the three counties have the highest numbers of coronavirus cases. They can offer outside dining service beginning June 1, but not dine-in eating. She did not disclose a new reopening date.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

She based her decision on data from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, including hospitalizations and rising case counts related to the virus. As of Wednesday, 59 Mainers were hospitalized, with 25 in intensive care, according to the CDC. That was up from 41 last Thursday with the uptick tied to long-term care facilities in southern Maine.

Restaurants in Penobscot County may reopen inside and outside on June 1 using safety precautions including physical distancing and enhanced sanitation practices, Mills said. Retail stores in all four counties can reopen indoor shopping.

Mills also said the rules on gatherings will increase from 10 people permitted per gathering to 50 people on June 1.

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