MAINE, USA — On Tuesday, Maine moves into Stage 4 of Governor Janet Mills' administration's plan to restart Maine’s economy.
Maine's face covering mandate is now being enforced statewide. A broader set of entities, such as private schools and local government buildings, must join restaurants, lodging, and retail establishments in having their employees and clients’ wear face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Stage 4 increases limits on indoor seating to 50 percent capacity of permitted occupancy, or 100 people – whichever is less – and maintains the critical public health measures outlined in COVID-19 Prevention Checklists, such as enhanced cleaning practices and physical distancing.
Some restaurants across the state who are allowed to increase indoor seating capacity are opting to stick with their current plan however.
"We're a small place anyways and we scaled back initially and we're just gonna leave it the way it is right now," said owner of Twin City Cafe in Biddeford Steve Lee. "I like to keep it safe."
Becky's Diner in Portland is also planning to stick with their current seating plan for as long as customers are willing to eat outdoors.
"Our outdoor dining has still been super popular," said Becky's general manager Zack Rand. "Right now we're not in a big rush."
Rand says that Becky's does plan to install Plexiglas barriers between booths to increase seating when the winter months come. Currently, the restaurants is still seating guests on it's deck and under a tend in the parking lot. Both outdoor locations have heaters to help keep customers comfortable.
"Keeping that outdoor dining going for as long as possible is going to be really good for us and for our customers and our employees," said Rand.
In an address to the state last week, Governor Mills said the expanded seating is intended to support businesses as the weather gets colder.
“With winter weather approaching, we must support businesses across the state as outdoor service becomes less viable and people move inside. This expanded capacity, along with continued health and safety precautions, is a prudent step forward that balances public health and economic health,” Mills said. “These adjustments, however, should not lure us into a false sense of security. This virus is still very much with us all across the state and wearing a face covering, staying six feet apart, avoiding large gatherings, and washing our hands often is key to keeping Maine schools and businesses open and keeping Maine people healthy.”
For non-seated indoor activities, such as physical activity in gyms, the limit remains at 50. The outdoor gathering limit remains at 100 people. Retailers remain subject to the occupancy limit of 5 people per 1,000 square feet of shopping space.
Stage 4 also anticipates a reopening date for indoor service for bars and tasting rooms of Monday, November 2.