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Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday said she is allowing more services to resume under health and safety precautions in 13 counties two weeks ahead of schedule on June 12, amid heavy pushes to reopen the economy in areas with low numbers of recorded coronavirus cases.
The new order includes tasting rooms and bars that may open for outside service, gyms, fitness centers, nail salons, and tattoo and piercing parlors. Those businesses can reopen in all counties except York, Cumberland and Androscoggin.
Rural counties have been advocating for quicker openings, and economic development officials hinted recently that they are considering the requests. Maine brewers also lobbied the governor to be able to reopen alongside restaurants and said many may face closure otherwise.
The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development released new checklists Thursday for the affected businesses. The new checklists include driver education schools, gyms and fitness centers, tattoo and piercing parlors, and barbering and cosmetology schools. The government also updated guidelines for retail, inland fish and wildlife outdoor activities, specific guidance for charter boats and marinas.
The development comes as the Mills administration works on an alternative to the state’s 14-day quarantine, including skipping the 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state visitors if they can provide proof of recent negative COVID-19 test results.
DECD Commissioner Heather Johnson said in a press conference Thursday that the administration is circulating the altered plan to businesses and expects to have a further announcement next week.
She said regulators are trying to find a sweet spot between allowing economic activity and keeping people safe. She noted, however, that in her research, people will travel to places where they feel safe.
Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services said at the press conference that the decision to keep outside service for craft brewers closed in the remaining three counties was “a public health and not an economic decision.”
She said authorities looked at data to study the coronavirus trends. Restaurants in all 16 counties are allowed to serve outdoors, though those in the three remaining counties still aren’t allowed to seat patrons indoors.
Watch: State labor commissioner speaks to unemployed Mainers