AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills Tuesday issued a “Stay Safer at Home” Executive Order saying that people must start wearing masks in public places today.
The new order continues to have Maine people stay at home with the same established exceptions for permitted activities, such as occasional grocery shopping or exercising. However, it now also allows Maine people to visit businesses or participate in activities deemed safe to open under Stage 1 of the reopening plan presented Tuesday.
These include barber shops and hair salons, auto dealerships and drive-in stay-in-your-vehicle religious services that follow COVID-19 prevention checklists.
The order is effective immediately and extends through May 31, subject to change.
“Maine appears to be flattening the curve against this pandemic, saving lives and protecting public health. But we are not out of the woods yet,” said Mills. “This measure allows us to gradually restart our economy, allows us to do the same things we have been doing over the past month, and maintains the important public health measures that have protected us thus far. I believe in Maine people more than anything. Although this has been a long and difficult road for our state, I know that together, we will continue to do the right thing to protect one another and defeat this virus.”
Mills also on Tuesday ordered Maine people to wear cloth face coverings in public places where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, as recommended by the U.S. CDC.
The order identifies public settings as: indoor spaces that are accessible to the public such as grocery stores, retail stores, pharmacies and health care facilities; outdoor spaces such as playgrounds, busy parking lots, and other areas such as lines for take-out service where the public typically gathers in a smaller area; and public transportation such as a taxi, Uber, Lyft, ride-sharing or similar service; ferries, buses or trains; and any semi-enclosed transit stop or waiting area.
Under the order, cloth face coverings are not required for children under age 2, a child in a child care setting or for anyone who has trouble breathing or related medical conditions, or who is otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. This requirement is effective Friday, May 1.
Mills is encouraging Maine people to make their own cloth face coverings from common materials or to purchase them from a Maine-based company to support local businesses. The Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership has compiled a list of Maine companies producing face coverings, which the administration is sharing with Maine people as a resource. Additionally, and to lead by example, the Mills administration has partnered with Westbrook-based company American Roots to purchase and provide two cloth face coverings for Maine state employee.
The Sun asked Fryeburg Police Chief Joshua Potvin how police would enforce the order about masks and he said he is focusing on educating people about the order so they can get voluntary compliance from the public.
"We are relying on the citizens of our communities to be responsible as it relates to public health and safety," said Potvin. "It is our responsibility as good citizens to self-police and adhere to the CDC recommendations of wearing proper face coverings when social distancing measures are not possible."
Meanwhile, Fryeburg Town Manager Katie Haley says she's working on plans to reopen some town buildings and departments.
"We are making some building modifications such as plexiglass installation at the counters and will request that people including staff wear masks," said Haley. "I will have more information in the regard next week."