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All your ‘stay-at-home’ order questions answered

Breaking down the Gov. Mills statewide order and what it means for daily life amid the coronavirus outbreak in Maine.

MAINE, USA — Gov. Janet Mills’ statewide “Stay Healthy at Home” order took effect on Thursday. Until May 1, everyone in Maine is required to stay home at all times unless for an essential job or an essential personal reason.

What qualifies as an essential reason?

Essential reasons include: grocery shopping, obtaining medical care or medication, providing care to another person, caring for livestock, engaging in outdoor exercise or walking a pet (while observing the appropriate social distancing measures), travels related to child care, or commuting to and from work for an essential job.

Can I go on a hike or go fishing?

The mandate allows for “outdoor exercise activities” such as walking, hiking, running, or biking. They must be conducted in accordance with public health restrictions and guidance, however, meaning you must still practice social distancing.

RELATED: As long as you're social distancing, fishing and other outdoor activities are permitted under Gov. Mills' executive order

But state parks and town beaches are closed, where can I go?

Although some are closed, most publicly accessible conversation lands are available for healthy outdoor recreation. Before you go, though, Maine’s conservation community reminds people to find the right time and place, be prepared before going out, and to heed all COVID-19 health warnings by social distancing and staying home if you feel sick.

Here are some outdoor options and resources available:

What is considered an essential business?

The full list is here. Mills’ order says essential businesses must limit the number of customers in their buildings at any one time, implementing curbside pick-up and delivery options, and enforce CDC-recommended social distancing requirements for employees and customers.

Landscaping isn't mentioned on that list, is it considered essential?

Landscaping is considered an essential business. Landscapers and landscaping companies are expected to follow the physical distancing guidelines as provided by the CDC to the most stringent standards practical.

I work at an essential business, can I still go to work?

Yes. But the order limits the number of people traveling there to people within your immediate household.

Can I still use public transportation?

Yes and no. Public transportation is allowed only for people traveling to an essential job or for an essential reason. 

Will I be pulled over if I'm out driving around?

Only if you're breaking laws. Police and Gov. Mills have said they will not be pulling people over who are out driving around. They are relying on voluntary compliance for the 'stay-at-home' order. 

What if I break any of the order's rules? Will I go to jail?

The order is enforceable by the police as necessary. Violations are a class E crime subject to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Licenses and permits for businesses are also subject to penalties if they violate mandates. 

Again, Mills and police are relying on voluntary compliance and say they hope formal enforcement will not be necessary.

RELATED: How ‘stay-at-home’ orders and gathering bans due to coronavirus are being enforced in Maine

What about people coming here from out of state? Are they allowed in?

Mills is not only asking people from out of state to not come to Maine but also asking Mainers who are currently out of state to not come back. 

Effective April 3, Governor Janet Mills issued an Executive Order mandating that travelers arriving in Maine, regardless of their state of residency, self-quarantine for 14 days to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

"I cannot simply close the state’s border or pull up the Maine New Hampshire bridge as a few people have suggested. I will insist that persons entering our state or returning to Maine from somewhere else, that they self-quarantine for 14 days...For those people who come to Maine, however, my message is clear: you cannot escape the virus by coming here."

The Order, which directs the Maine Department of Transportation, the Maine Turnpike Authority, and others to post this guidance at all major points of entry into the State, exempts individuals who are providing essential services as defined by Governor Mills’ March 24 Executive Order.

RELATED: Maine Gov. Janet Mills orders all travelers coming to Maine quarantine for 14 days due to coronavirus, COVID-19 fears

But legally, could Mills close the border?

We had our VERIFY team research this, and it turns out there is no definitive answer. A law or rule that explicitly saying a state government can or cannot shut down their borders is not directly written anywhere.

The best answer, for now, is that Governor Mills herself doesn’t think she can do this.

RELATED: VERIFY: Can Gov. Mills legally shut down Maine borders to protect against coronavirus, COVID-19?

My kids are getting stir crazy, when can they go back to school?

Sorry, parents. The new order says schools must remain closed until at least May 1 or until further order. 

My town had a different order in place, which rules do I follow?

Mills' order is preemptive, meaning it overrides individual town's orders.

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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