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In a show of defiance to the state’s coronavirus restrictions, Gorham’s town council has voted 6-1 to allow town businesses to reopen despite Cumberland County having the greatest number of COVID-19 cases in the state.
The Portland Press Herald reported that a resolution passed during a meeting on Tuesday declaring all Gorham businesses are essential, but it does not supersede state regulations and state officials still have the power to revoke business licenses for those who don’t follow state orders.
Gorham’s gesture is the latest against lockdown regulations that critics describe as too severe. A Bethel restaurant co-owner reopened in early May, drawing more than 150 customers, in a deliberate act of disobedience that was at the time the clearest example of tensions boiling over in Maine about the pandemic restrictions. He said he was protesting inconsistencies in a state order that barred dine-in restaurant service as part of an order that he said favored big businesses and hurt smaller operators such as his.
Calais City Council members approved a resolution in mid-March approving the restarts of “any private-sector business that wants to open up in this community.”
Councilor Ben Hartwell said he hopes his resolution sends a message to Gov. Janet Mills and that other towns will follow Gorham’s example, t he Press Herald reported.
“I trust our local business owners to do the right thing for the community. This push back needs to start somewhere,” Hartwell said. “It needs to start here and it needs to start now.”
The coronavirus has hit hardest in Cumberland County, where as of Wednesday, 1,226 cases have been confirmed and where the bulk of virus deaths — 54 — have been concentrated. It is one of four counties — the others are Androscoggin, Penobscot and York — where “community transmission” has been confirmed, according to the Maine Centers for Disease Control.
The state began allowing several kinds of businesses to restart on June 1 as part of a phased plan.
Watch: Janet Mills announces changes to June 1 reopening phase