Shoppers leave a clothing shop that now also sells masks to help fight the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Portland, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You have to be publicly responsible. Especially with products that we are making — they are going in somebody’s body,” said Rebecca Karabin-Ahern, the co-president of Acme Monaco’s Presque Isle plant, on the catheter guidewires the company makes. Demand for the wires has gone up during the coronavirus pandemic. “This could be used on my grandmother. You have to think about who the end-user is.”

What we’re watching today

A coronavirus outbreak linked to a wedding in Millinocket is reigniting the debate about how Maine can safely resume economic activities. More than two dozen cases of the virus have been traced to guests who attended the Aug. 7 event or their close contacts, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and local hospital officials. The Penobscot County town had previously yet to see a confirmed case of the virus.

State officials will discuss later today whether the hotel and guests followed state guidelines, which dictate that no more than 50 people can gather for an indoor event and 100 for an outdoor event and require the use of face coverings in situations where physical distancing is difficult. The wedding reportedly had 65 guests.

The incident raises questions about whether Maine’s safety precautions are sufficient to protect from the deadly virus. Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, has faced significant pressure from business interests to relax restrictions and allow for more out-of-state tourism, though polling has shown a majority of Mainers approve of her handling of the virus.

Some regard outbreaks like this one as an inevitable consequence of resuming economic activities. But others are likely to worry whether the state is reopening too fast, and whether Maine residents and visitors are actually adhering to public health requirements intended to keep the virus at bay.

Those questions are especially important as schools across the state look to reopen in the coming weeks, which could change Maine’s outlook. Two Foxcroft Academy students who participated in preseason athletic workouts have already tested positive for the virus, which is notable since Piscataquis County has been one of the least affected regions to date.

Reduced public health restrictions are helping the hospitality business, according to recent data. Maine’s hotel and restaurant industry saw a partial recovery in June, according to tax figures, likely reflecting Maine residents traveling within the state as Mills reduced restrictions on hotels, campgrounds and other tourism-oriented businesses. Those numbers are expected to improve again for July, reflecting increased tourism from out of state.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Mainers can now request absentee ballots online as mail concerns persist,” Jessica Piper, Bangor Daily News: “Under state law, absentee ballots can be requested beginning three months before the election. The state was still revamping its online form in early August, though voters were still able to request absentee ballots via written request or over the phone.”

The rush is on to get ballots in hand. The Secretary of State’s office saw 6,000 requests for absentee ballots by 2:25 p.m., Maine Public reported. A record-setting 185,000 Maine voters returned absentee ballots for the July primary, and Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has said he anticipates 60 percent of voters could use the method for the general election.

Clarification: An earlier version of this item used too high of a turnout estimate for the 2020 election. Based on 2016 turnout, the secretary of state’s estimated share of absentee voters would equal roughly 463,000 early ballots.

— “Class-action lawsuit alleges illegal wiretapping at Maine jails,” Samantha Hogan, The Maine Monitor: “Communications between an attorney and client are confidential and protected under what is known as attorney-client privilege. State law bans any interference in these conversations. But an investigation by The Maine Monitor found that those calls were recorded between at least 161 inmates and lawyers from 34 firms in a 12-month span by jails that contract with Securus Technologies.”

— “Portland likely to miss out on Maine’s first adult-use marijuana sales,” Penelope Overton, Portland Press Herald: “The state’s biggest city has put its plan to issue recreational marijuana retail licenses on hold after a federal judge ruled that Portland’s licensing system unfairly discriminated against out-of-state applicants who want to participate in Maine’s new recreational cannabis industry.”

Maine gets cameo in first day of Democratic convention

The Pine Tree State is unlikely to feature much in the mostly virtual Democratic National Convention this week, but it did briefly on Monday. The first day featured a brief appearance from Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who is running to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Susan Collins for her seat. She popped up on Monday night to introduce singer Maggie Rogers in a pre-taped appearance from a seaside location in Scarborough on the first day of the convention. A Gideon spokesperson said it was filmed “a few weeks ago.” Here’s your soundtrack.

Democrats and Republicans are holding events and counter-events around the convention. Maine Democrats are holding virtual watch parties with elected officials on each of the four days of the convention. The last one on Thursday will be headlined by Susan Rice, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, runner-up in the party’s 2020 vice presidential race and Maine homeowner. Republicans, on the other hand, held a “defend the police” rally in Springvale on Monday and will hold a gun-rights rally at the State House in Augusta today.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...