AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine sped up its economic reopening timeline on Thursday to allow indoor venues to resume operations at full capacity later this month, but officials declined to immediately adopt a federal recommendation to relax indoor mask mandates.
Gov. Janet Mills’ announcement in preparation for the summer tourism season came nearly simultaneously as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended allowing fully vaccinated people to avoid wearing masks in most indoor settings in one of the nation’s biggest steps toward a return to normalcy since the pandemic began more than a year ago.
The state will lift capacity limits both indoors and outdoors effective May 24, Mills announced Thursday. Indoor venues were set to go to 75 percent capacity on that date. Venues will not be required to adhere to physical distancing requirements except at indoor restaurants and other places where it is not possible to wear face coverings.
State officials said they planned to review the new CDC guidelines that came out as they held a news conference, but Thursday’s announcement did not include any changes to Maine’s policy mandating masks in public indoor spaces except while eating and drinking.
“The guidance just went up online in the last few minutes, we haven’t studied it in detail,” Mills said. “We’re sticking with what we’re saying today because we think it’s best for Maine’s economy and Maine’s public health needs right now.”
Maine is one of six states where 70 percent of adults have received at least one vaccine dose, according to federal data. Overall, 54 percent of the state’s population has received at least one dose, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We continue to review our protocols, every day, every week, but the simple fact is, the more people who get vaccinated, the faster we’ll be able to get back to normal, as a state, as a society,” Mills said.