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Maine businesses can deny entry or service to people not wearing face coverings, but that does not apply to people who have conditions exempting them from doing so and no proof is required, according to a new executive order released by Gov. Janet Mills on Friday.
The order goes into effect on May 31 and enshrines many changes to coronavirus-related restrictions outlined by the Mills administration over the last few weeks. On June 1, restrictions will be partially lifted on restaurants, lodging and other types of businesses. Gathering limits will be raised from 10 people to 50 people in one place.
The new face covering provision adds to the earlier April 29 executive order that mandates them in public places where distancing is difficult, including stores. But it allowed exemptions for children under age 2, for children in child care and for people who have trouble breathing, related medical conditions or cannot remove a mask without assistance.
That order put businesses in limbo with many reticent to enforce the provision. Patrons who cannot wear a face covering because of a medical condition are not required to produce medical documentation, leaving businesses to take a person’s word for it and let them in.
Curtis Picard, the CEO of the Retail Association of Maine, said his group asked for the change in Mills’ Friday order to affirm a business’ right to deny service to someone not wearing a mask. However, he said it may not change current practices when a patron alleges a medical condition.
Commissioner Heather Johnson of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development hinted at the change when she told business leaders in a Wednesday online meeting that restaurant owners can refuse service to customers who do not wear a mask. Businesses do not have to enforce the provision, however.
Mills’ new order also requires every business accessible to the public to post easily visible signs notifying customers about the requirement to wear face coverings by June 5.
BDN writer Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.