Mills’ New Order Authorizes Statewide Dining Room Service
Governor Janet Mills announced Monday that restaurants in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties could resume indoor dining on Wednesday, citing “encouraging trends” in COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates in the Maine since May.
Bars, brasseries, health clubs, nail salons and tattoo parlors in these three counties will also be able to operate under the same rules already in place in the other 13 counties in Maine. This means that from Wednesday, Kittery’s Brewery bars and tasting rooms in Brunswick as well as the Lewiston / Auburn area can start serving outdoors, while gym patrons can return home. indoor as long as the installations comply with health and safety guidelines.
Mills initially delayed the schedule for reopening businesses in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties due to increased COVID-19 cases, outbreaks and hospitalizations in late May. But hospitalizations have since declined and the number of daily cases, while fluid, appears to be stabilizing overall in all three counties.
âWe have observed these trends and believe it is safe enough at this time to make these changes,â Mills said during the daily briefing with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Maine CDC on Monday reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 illness caused by the coronavirus, as well as one additional death. To date, 2,810 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Maine or are classified as âprobableâ due to close contact with an infected person or a positive antibody test.
The death toll among people with COVID-19 rose to 101 on Monday after remaining at 100 for almost a week. The latest death was identified as a woman in her 40s from Androscoggin County.
Maine has averaged 30 or more new coronavirus cases per day since last Wednesday and hit a two-week high of 54 cases on Friday, so Monday’s additional 17 cases represent a downward change.
After subtracting those 101 deaths and the 2,189 people who recovered, the Maine CDC was reporting 520 active cases of the disease. It is the same number as Sunday.
The number of active cases has declined overall in recent weeks in Maine, as have hospitalizations among people with COVID-19. Maine recorded an average of 513 active cases per day for the seven-day period ending Monday, compared to 607 active cases for the week ending June 8.
Dr Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, also pointed out that the seven-day moving average of molecular tests that come back as positive fell below 3% for the first time on Monday. Cumulatively, the positivity rate for the 71,485 molecular tests processed so far in Maine stood at 4.57 percent on Monday.
âThese trends, again, show that we are moving in the right direction, but we all have more to do to at least reduce this seven-day mobile positivity rate,â Shah said.
Thirty-one people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday, two more than the day before, and there were 11 people in intensive care units and four people were connected to ventilators.
Another potential sign of how things are going, Shah announced that he was cutting his closely watched daily briefings to three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – rather than every day of the week.
DINNER ONCE AGAIN
The Mills administration surprised many restaurant owners and employees on May 27 by delaying food service in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties. At the time, the number of cases and hospitalizations were increasing in these three counties, all of which are experiencing “community transmission” of the virus.
The decision infuriated some restaurant owners, who had purchased supplies and prepared staff to reopen to indoor dining with the rest of the state on June 1. All restaurants in the state can provide outdoor service as long as they space the tables and staff follow detailed health and safety guidelines.
David Cluff, owner of Duffy’s Tavern & Grill in Kennebunk and Old Orchard Beach, was “excited” to hear the news and said his restaurants will indeed reopen indoor dining on Wednesday.
Following state health and safety protocols for indoor dining means seating at both restaurants will be “drastically reduced,” he said, “but take-out is not enough for us. not to survive, so we can’t wait to open our dining room as well. . “
Duffy’s Kennebunk Restaurant doesn’t have an outdoor dining space, but it has picnic tables set up at the Old Orchard Beach location and offers old-fashioned carhop service. Cluff said he plans to continue offering take-out and deliveries to both locations even after the dining rooms open because “we know some of our customers still have concerns.”
Plus, the soon-to-be-lifted restrictions on outdoor service for bars and tasting rooms will be good news for the southern Maine brewing and distilling scene, especially in the Greater Portland area. With approximately 150 breweries, Maine has one of the highest concentrations of breweries per capita in the country.
According to the Maine Brewers’ Guild, about 80 percent of craft breweries in Maine are licensed to offer outdoor service.
“We are grateful to Governor Mills for accelerating the schedule to reopen the Maine brewery tasting rooms,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild, in a statement. âThe state’s Maine brewers are eager to safely serve fresh, local beer to customers again. We would also like to give a toast to all the Mainers as we want to thank everyone for their cooperation in helping to flatten the curve so that this can happen.
With Monday’s announcement, Mills said Maine is now reopening the state’s economy “on par or even ahead of other northeastern states.”
But the governor noted that other states – such as Texas, Florida and Arizona – are experiencing record numbers of infections after easing restrictions on the public and businesses. Mills said such experiences “should be an uplifting tale for Maine and for all of us.”
“It is possible, if not likely, that these changes we are making will cause a slight increase in cases and we will be monitoring the epidemiological data closely, as we have been doing from the start,” said Mills. âIf a review of this data reveals evidence of a worrying increase in COVID-19 cases or danger risks to the capacity of our health care system, we will act to protect the people of Maine. This could possibly mean re-implementing some of the restrictions we lifted in order to protect public health and safety. “
Last week, Mills announced that foreign visitors to Maine could avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine if they can show they have tested negative for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before arriving in the state. . Alternatively, tourists and other out-of-state visitors could be tested in Maine but would have to self-quarantine while awaiting test results.
As part of the revised plan, hotels and other accommodation establishments will once again be able to meet the needs of foreigners from June 26. But many business owners and hospitality industry officials fear the testing requirements may be too high for many tourists to the state are choosing to vacation in Maine during the economically critical summer season.
Although the numbers vary daily, the Maine CDC lab analyzed around 1,500 tests per day and hopes to increase that capacity to over 4,500 per day next month as part of an extension of an existing partnership with Idexx. Laboratories, based in Westbrook.
But the number of cases is increasing in some other states, raising questions as to whether Maine could see an increase as well. Public health officials in Maine and across the country will also be watching closely if there are any correlations between the new cases and large nationwide racial justice protests and rallies in recent weeks.
Editors Meredith Goad and Ray Routhier contributed to this report.
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