Good morning from Augusta. Gov. Janet Mills will unveil her spring and summer economic reopening plan at an 11 a.m. news conference, but we have the scoop below. Here’s your soundtrack.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We have no control, no authority over what our students and their families do when they’re not in school,” said Hermon High School teacher Jesse Hargrove after the state opened COVID-19 vaccinations to teachers. “So knowing that there is still a potential risk, especially for some of our more vulnerable teacher populations, it’s important for them to be vaccinated.”
What we’re watching today
The governor’s reopening plan will allow widespread travel and economic activity before Memorial Day. Mills will immediately allow people from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island to travel to the state without a 10-day quarantine and lift Maine’s testing and quarantine requirements for people in any state who are fully vaccinated and have waited 14 days after their last dose, per two sources familiar with a plan to she will announce on Friday morning.
Maine will also move to a system on May 1 in which Americans can travel to Maine without quarantine except those from states on a new exclusionary list. Currently, the state does the opposite, allowing only people from New Hampshire and Vermont to come here without quarantine.
The Democratic governor will also equalize capacity limits for businesses and other entities including churches by shifting all of them to a percentage-of-capacity model. Later this month, they will be able to go to 50 percent capacity indoors before shifting to 75 percent before Memorial Day. Outdoor limits will increase to 75 percent, then 100 percent on those dates.
The plan leaves safety protocols in effect, but it gives businesses much of what they want. Indoor gatherings will still be subject to safety protocols, leaving mask mandates in effect and limiting capacities somewhat at businesses and churches. For example, restaurants will still have to space tables apart and the Portland Sea Dogs will likely not be able to host full crowds for a while because of distancing rules.
Mills’ changes will be the first major reopening milestone since July, when Maine allowed people from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey to travel here without a negative test or quarantine. A surge in cases and deaths through the fall and winter led to reinstatement or extension of some restrictions.
But the hospitality industry has largely been targeting the quarantine requirements as out-of-state visitors plan summer trips ahead. While they will not recover large events such as weddings and conferences, this plan will likely allow for the return of normal overnight travel.
It comes after Vermont lifted its quarantine requirement for vaccinated people last week and Massachusetts lifted restaurant capacity limits this week. Texas and Mississippi scrapped limits and mask mandates this week, leading to criticism from President Joe Biden.
The Maine politics top 3
— “Maine lawmakers deadlock on federal aid control, taxes with key budget vote looming,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The Legislature’s budget committee agreed on Thursday to fully forgive state taxes on federal loans to small businesses, but the parties remain $32 million apart as Republicans withhold support for a spending plan requiring supermajorities to pass.”
After a delay to read the massive bill, Senate Democrats were preparing to push through their massive $1.9 trillion relief measure. The chamber is set to begin voting on a large pile of amendments to the stimulus package around noon today after minority Republicans forced clerks to read the bill aloud into the night. Democrats needed Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote to begin debate on the package, meaning they are likely poised for the same result after they run the amendment gauntlet today.
— “Maine bishop urges Catholics to not get Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Rosemary Lausier, BDN: “Bishop Robert Deeley said that if an ‘ethically irreproachable’ vaccine is not available, then it is ‘morally acceptable’ for Catholics receive a vaccine with connection to abortion-derived cell lines. However, with the state offering both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, he urged Catholics to choose those alternatives instead.”
Maine is not receiving any new Johnson & Johnson vaccines next week as the company ramps up supply. The state anticipated some drop off after the initial distribution of the newly approved one-shot vaccine last week, but health officials were surprised that Maine would receive nothing. The state is still receiving nearly 34,000 new first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, with an unspecified number of additional doses to be distributed to pharmacies and Federally Qualified Health Centers.
— “Jared Golden wants Biden to review CMP corridor permit,” The Associated Press: “The presidential permit issued by the Department of Energy in January provided the green light for the interconnect at the Canadian border. Other agencies had already signed off. In his letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Golden raised several concerns, including the adequacy of the environmental review and public input compared to similar-scaled projects in New England.”
Today’s Daily Brief was written by Michael Shepherd and Jessica Piper. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.
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