AUGUSTA, Maine — As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Maine, Gov. Janet Mills announced an extension of the statewide curfew for businesses through Jan. 3.
Certain businesses statewide, including restaurants, are required to close by 9 p.m. The measure, which first took effect on Nov. 20 ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, is aimed at limiting activities that lead to COVID-19 transmission during the holidays when social gatherings are more common.
Businesses affected by the order include all outdoor and indoor amusement venues, movie theaters, performing arts venues, casinos, and businesses that provide seated food and drink service, including social clubs, restaurants, and bars and tasting rooms currently open for outdoor service.
“It is too early to know the impact of the Thanksgiving holiday on the spread of COVID-19 in Maine, but with hundreds of people getting sick all across the state, and many more dying and so many receiving critical care in our overburdened hospitals, we cannot afford to let down our guard,” Mills said in a release Friday. “This targeted step aims to limit evening gatherings in public settings where we know folks are more likely to let their guard down and expose themselves and others to this deadly virus. At the same time, this action allows businesses to stay open for the majority of their operating hours, as long as they comply with basic public health and safety measures. Of course, we are also cautioning against private gatherings as well. The fact is, any gathering of people for any reason, particularly without masking and social distancing, is a dangerous event. If we are not able to get this virus under control, other steps may be necessary. I ask all Maine people, please do your part. Don’t take chances: wear your face covering, wash your hands, watch your distance and avoid gatherings. Getting back to normal sometime next year first requires us to survive the holidays this year.”
The Mills administration says the limit on closing times is aimed at curbing extended evening gatherings during the holiday season when individuals, including students and family members returning to Maine from elsewhere, are more likely to lower their guard, particularly later in the evening, jeopardizing adherence to critical public health and safety guidelines.
“With increasing community transmission, we all need to take steps to deny the virus opportunities to harm our friends, family, and loved ones,” Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said. “Delaying shared celebrations or adapting holiday traditions in ways that allow us to spread good cheer without spreading the virus can help ease stress on Maine’s health care system and potentially save lives.”
The early closure time, however, still allows these businesses to maintain some daytime operations. Curbside pick-up and delivery service are still permitted after 9 p.m. Early business closing times are in line with actions taken by other states, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York.
On Friday, Maine reported 290 additional cases, four additional deaths, 164 hospitalizations, and a seven-day test positivity rate of 4.87 percent.