An impending change in Maine’s mask requirements marks a dramatic course change in the coronavirus pandemic so far.
It has been a year since Gov. Janet Mills required masks to be worn in most public places. On May 24, that will change for fully vaccinated Mainers after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they can safely go maskless in those places. It will coincide with the arrival of the summer tourism season and the repeal of capacity limits for businesses and venues.
The change is likely to be jarring after masks became an everyday feature of public life. Many of you had questions about how the change would affect children or what businesses would be allowed to do once the restrictions lift.
We will update this story as your questions come in and guidelines are updated.
Will businesses be allowed to require masks or proof of vaccination?
Businesses are allowed to set their own policies for mask use among employees and customers. They can mandate vaccinations or proof of them before allowing anyone into their establishment without a mask.
However, there are questions around ease of enforcement. Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said Friday the state will not set a policy requiring screening for vaccinations. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah demurred on proof businesses could ask for or what to do if someone does not comply, saying they should work that out with lawyers.
What about children who are under 12? Do they need to wear masks?
Health officials are still recommending anyone who is not vaccinated wear a mask. That includes children under the age of 12, who are not able to get any of the vaccines yet. Lambrew said vaccinated adults should consider still wearing a mask to “serve as a role model” for children who have not gotten a shot yet.
What does this mean for schools?
The new set of guidelines from the state does not affect schools. Students and school staff are still required to wear masks in indoor settings. The federal CDC may be updating its school and childcare guidelines in the coming days.
Where are masks still required?
The U.S. CDC still requires masks on forms of public transportation, such as buses or planes, and public schools. Congregate settings like homeless shelters should also maintain mask requirements.
Will there be consequences if I’m not vaccinated and do not wear a mask in a public place?
It is not clear yet what the consequences would be. Of course, it will be difficult to determine who is unvaccinated without some kind of proof. But Lambrew said we can expect changes to the state’s mask mandate in the following days that will address the issue.
What kind of guidance can we expect from the state going forward?
Public health officials said Friday they will be reviewing the state’s COVID-19 business checklists to see what policies should remain going forward and what should be retired. But we can expect to see Maine take less of an active role in shaping COVID-19 policy and deferring to federal policy — which it has largely followed.