Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday issued an executive order requiring Mainers to wear face coverings in public no matter their distance from others.
That order comes amid a days-long surge in coronavirus transmission with new cases surging to levels not seen even in the earliest weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the latest move from the Mills administration to tamp down on rising case levels, following the governor’s move last week to push back the reopening of bars and tasting rooms.
Under a previous executive order issued in July, Mills required Mainers to wear face coverings in public spaces only when physical distance is not easily maintained. This new order also requires business owners to prominently post signs about the face covering requirement, which was previously required only of large retail businesses.
“This deadly and dangerous virus is spreading all across our state,” Mills said Thursday. “Protect your family. Protect a health care worker. Protect the elderly. Wear your face covering. Save lives. It is that simple.”
The order applies to grocery and other retail stores, gyms and other athletic venues, theaters, pharmacies and other health care facilities, churches and other places of worship, public transportation, state, county and municipal offices, and outdoor spaces, such as sidewalks, parking lots and playgrounds.
Under the order, children 5 years old and older must wear face coverings, including in schools and child care facilities, while they are only recommended for children ages 2 to 4.
Mills also further lowered the indoor gathering limit from 100 to 50, as she had announced last week. Occupancy limits for retail establishments will remain at five people per 1,000 square feet of shopping space.
“While we know that wearing a mask is uncomfortable we feel it is necessary to protect our employees, customers, and communities across the state of Maine,” Adam Reny, co-owner of Renys and member of the Retail Association of Maine, said, noting that face coverings will be required in all stories.
Another 163 coronavirus cases have been reported across the state in the previous 24 hours, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Only one county — Oxford — reported no new cases to the Maine CDC.
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The seven-day average for new cases has risen to a dizzying 118.7, up from 67 a week earlier and 31 a month ago. The rising level of infection has caused concern among Maine health officials, who have urged Mainers to take steps to prevent further transmission.
“Maine is experiencing widespread community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19,” Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said. “Wearing face coverings and staying at least six feet away from others when out in public are ways that every person in Maine can limit potential spread of the virus to help make their communities and homes safer.”