A man strolls by a poster urging people to wear masks and keep their distance in Portland on Friday Dec. 11, 2020. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Gov. Janet Mills on Friday ordered owners and operators of all indoor public spaces regardless of type or size to not allow those who refuse to wear a face covering to come into or remain in their venue.

The order, which reflects the strongest language so far from the Democratic governor around face coverings, extends previous orders that did not require mask enforcement in all public settings. The order closes a loophole that had allowed those claiming a medical exemption to not wear a face covering.

“Think twice, because COVID is not taking the holiday off,” Mills warned Mainers about mask-wearing when going into social settings such as shopping or spending time with friends.

In addition, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said the state was lowering the quarantine time for those who have had close contact with someone who has the novel coronavirus and is entering Maine from states other than New Hampshire or Vermont to 10 days from the current 14. It previously had been lowered for Mainers.

Mills also said she recently dedicated $100,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds to continue a public awareness campaign around masks. Mills said earlier Friday that she had committed the last of the $1.25 billion given to Maine as part of a stimulus package passed in March.

Mills and other governors instituted business closures and other drastic measures in the spring that lifted over the summer as the virus situation improved. Since late October, the state and nation have seen cases surge and the Maine governor last month cited the lack of a new federal stimulus as one reason she has not reinstituted strict limits.

On Friday, she warned that more severe restrictions, including reduced gathering limits or business closures, might be necessary to gain better control of the spread of the virus, saying Maine is “running out of available public health tools to reduce the spread.”

Gov. Janet Mills on Friday ordered owners and operators of all indoor public spaces regardless of type or size to not allow those who refuse to wear a face covering to come into or remain in their venue.

The order, which reflects the strongest language so far from the Democratic governor around face coverings, extends previous orders that did not require mask enforcement in all public settings. The order closes a loophole that had allowed those claiming a medical exemption to not wear a face covering.

“Think twice, because COVID is not taking the holiday off,” Mills warned Mainers about mask-wearing when going into social settings such as shopping or spending time with friends.

In addition, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said the state was lowering the quarantine time for those who have had close contact with someone who has the novel coronavirus and is entering Maine from states other than New Hampshire or Vermont to 10 days from the current 14. It previously had been lowered for Mainers.

Mills also said she recently dedicated $100,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds to continue a public awareness campaign around masks. Mills said earlier Friday that she had committed the last of the $1.25 billion given to Maine as part of a stimulus package passed in March.

Mills and other governors instituted business closures and other drastic measures in the spring that lifted over the summer as the virus situation improved. Since late October, the state and nation have seen cases surge. The Maine governor last month cited the lack of a new federal stimulus as one reason she has not reinstituted strict limits.

On Friday, she warned that more severe restrictions, including reduced gathering limits or business closures, might be necessary to gain better control of the spread of the virus, saying Maine is “running out of available public health tools to reduce the spread.”

Some business groups bought into the changes, with Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, saying in a statement issued by Mills’ office that protecting the health of Mainers and the workforce also protects Maine’s economic health. But legislative Republicans and the conservative National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small employers, criticized the change.

David Clough, the NFIB’s Maine director, said that while the order may work at bigger stores with more employees in relatively populated areas, it may not work in small stores with a handful of employees and no one trained in conflict de-escalation.

“There is great concern with having small business workers, in some cases teenagers, charged with ensuring compliance with executive orders,” House Minority Leader Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, said in a statement.

Violations of executive orders are a Class E crime, punishable by up to 180 days imprisonment and $1,000 fine. The state also can take action against a facility’s operating license in case of noncompliance with enforcement.

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