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On Monday, many Maine businesses could more fully open for the first time in more than two months. Retail stores in all counties can open, with limits on how many people can be inside. Hotels and other lodging are open for Maine residents and out-of-state visitors who fulfill a 14-day quarantine. Restaurants in Penobscot County can offer inside dining for the first time since March. Restaurants in all Maine counties can now offer outside seating.
On Thursday, Mills announced that gyms, fitness centers, nail salons and tattoo and piercing parlors in 13 mostly rural counties can open on June 12, two weeks earlier than originally scheduled. Bars can open for outdoor seating in all counties except York, Cumberland and Androscoggin as well.
While there are still restrictions that are well meaning but confusing and unworkable — such as the 14-day quarantine, which the administration thankfully says it is working to end — this reopening should be hailed, especially by those who have been protesting that Gov. Janet Mills’ plans for reopening have been too slow and heavy handed. These critics include President Donald Trump and former Gov. Paul LePage who had an odd and unfactual discussion of Mills’ plans to open Maine during the president’s Friday visit to Bangor.
Most states have lifted their most stringent restrictions and are allowing many types of businesses to open with limits on the number of people that can gather there. Several states are only allowing reopenings in counties where certain criteria, such as adequate testing and hospital capacity, have been met. Many states, including several New England states, have quarantine requirements for out-of-state visitors like Maine’s, which are aimed at minimizing the spread of the new coronavirus from other states.
Now that more businesses can resume operations, the immediate challenge falls mostly to Mainers to patronize them. There are many ways to help local merchants. The most direct is to spend your money there.
Angry that restaurants could only offer takeout and delivery? Go to your favorite eatery and order a hearty meal. Don’t forget to tip well.
Firing off social media posts that the governor was killing the hospitality industry? Book a weekend getaway at a lodge or campground.
And if eating in a restaurant or staying in a hotel still feels unsafe, continue with takeout orders and order online from Maine companies.
The spending of Mainers will be especially important to the state’s tourism industry, which is likely to experience a significant downturn this summer for a variety of reasons: the 14-day quarantine; the hesitancy of Americans to travel far from home, especially by plane; the economic downturn, which has cost tens of millions of Americans their jobs.
We don’t expect Mainers to make up for the tens of millions of visitors who come to the state each year, spending more than $6 billion, but the flagship industry still needs our support.
So, if you have the time and financial resources, plan a Maine staycation. Book a stay at a Maine campground, inn or resort. If you planned a now-canceled summer vacation out of state or even to another country, now is the time to pivot and to enjoy your home state, while injecting some much needed cash into the state and local economy.
Special consideration should go to businesses that have innovated and found ways to safely serve their customers and retain their employees during the months of coronavirus-related restrictions. These include restaurants and brewers that quickly pivoted to take-out and delivery and the companies that made entirely new products — some of which they donated to first responders and health care personnel.
As you head out to businesses that have reopened, or remained open during the pandemic, remember that we all have the same goals — to keep customers and workers safe and to restart the state’s economy as quickly as possible. So, if a business asks you to wear a mask or to provide your phone number, do it. They are following state and federal guidelines and arguing with you takes time away from their work and other customers.
Spend locally, and be kind to those who are working with you.