Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Officials in Maine, US, to ease COVID-related restrictions in 12 counties May 18; measures remain in place in four counties through May 31.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Bangor, Maine
  • Portland, Maine
  • Presque Isle, Maine
  • Augusta, Maine
  • Lewiston-Auburn, Maine

This alert began 16 May 2020 19:29 GMT and is scheduled to expire 31 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Maine (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant transport and business disruptions; heightened security

Summary
Authorities in Maine plan to lift additional business restrictions in 12 of the state's 16 counties starting May 18 as part of their coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery plan. The affected jurisdictions are Maine's mostly rural Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Somerset, Waldo, and Washington counties. Most existing restrictions will remain in place in the state's remaining four counties through at least May 31.

The new directive enables dine-in services at restaurants to resume, and remote campsites and sporting camps to reopen in the 12 specified counties as of May 18. Retail stores were allowed to reopen for in-person services in the same counties starting May 11. Regardless, all businesses must enhance sanitation procedures, ensure compliance with social distancing guidelines, and provide the necessary protective equipment for employees.

Statewide, a stay-at-home order is in place through May 31. The order stipulates that residents may only leave their homes to obtain basic goods, attend to a medical issue, care for a person in need, or go to work at a business or service which is allowed to operate. Residents may also perform outdoor recreational activities, provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines. Gatherings of 10 or more people remain banned and all residents are required to wear cloth face coverings when in public.

Auto dealerships and car washes; personal care businesses such as barbershops, hair salons, and pet groomers; guided outdoor activities; golf courses; and drive-in movie theaters and religious services have been allowed to resume operating since May 1 under Phase 1 of Maine's recovery plan. State parks and historic sites have also reopened. Essential businesses and services that have not been subject to mandatory closures include grocery shops, pharmacies, banks, fuel stations, and companies operating in the transport, security, telecommunications, utility services, and critical manufacturing sectors. Any nonessential businesses not specifically allowed to reopen must remain closed through at least May 31, unless their employees can work from home. All travelers entering Maine for nonessential purposes must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival - a mandate that also applies to residents returning from out of state.

All lodging businesses must remain closed, with the exception of those providing housing to vulnerable populations or healthcare workers, or are operating as quarantine quarters. Lodging establishments may, however, accept reservations for June 1 or later from Maine residents or out-of-state visitors who have completed their quarantines.

Stage 2 of the economic recovery plan is currently scheduled to start June 1 and included the reopening of dine-in restaurants, fitness centers, retail stores, and lodging statewide. The limit on gatherings will increase from 10 to 50 people. Bars and additional personal care businesses are slated to reopen during Stage 3 which is currently scheduled to start between July and August. Authorities have not announced any prospective start date for Stage 4, under which remaining restrictions could be lifted.

Significant transport and business disruptions remain likely. Authorities will almost certainly keep additional security personnel deployed to assist in enforcing the remaining measures. Officials could vary the timing, implementation, or content of any part of the state's COVID-19 recovery plan, depending on the disease activity in the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The relaxation of some measures will likely accelerate in the coming weeks; however, restrictions may be reimposed or extended further should the number of COVID-19 cases increase. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Strictly heed the instructions of authorities. Avoid all nonessential operations in the areas impacted by the measures. Confirm appointments. Remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by law enforcement officers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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