AUGUSTA, Maine — On Tuesday Gov. Janet Mills announced a series of new mandates to protect public health and safety in the face of COVID-19, including a "Stay Healthy at Home" directive that requires people living in Maine to stay at home at all times unless for an essential job or an essential personal reason, such as obtaining food, medicine, health care, or other necessary purposes.
The Executive Order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on April 2, 2020 and will last until at least April 30, 2020.
In a press conference Tuesday evening, Mills said, "I beg the people of Maine to be patient, to be tolerant, to act with kindness, compassion, humanity towards your neighbors, your family, your friends, and your community members across the state as we engage in this unusual manner to put to bed this terrible, dangerous, deadly virus."
"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 someone else, that they self-quarantine for 14 days." Mills said she would be issuing an additional order in that regard with more details in the next day or so.
"For those people who come to Maine, however, my message is clear: you cannot escape the virus by coming here."
Mills said she has been favorably impressed by the compliance with her previous orders, but that it seemed necessary to issue a stricter order to make sure people are complying.
The Executive Order is enforceable by law enforcement as necessary and violations are a class E crime subject to up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine. Mills said, however, she is, "not ordering that we live in a police state," and that the order can be enforced as necessary.
"Nothing feels really right about doing this nothing feels normal about doing this," she said. "No one anticipated these kinds of measures."
The Governor also mandated a series of other new restrictions, including:
- For essential businesses and operations that remain open, limiting the number of customers in their buildings at any one time, implementing curbside pickup and delivery options as much as possible, and enforcing U.S. CDC-recommended physical distancing requirements for their customers and employees in and around their facilities.
- Prohibiting the use of public transportation unless for an essential reason or job that cannot be done from home and limiting the number of people traveling in private vehicles to persons within the immediate household unless transporting for essential activities.
- Mandating the continued termination of classroom or other in-person instruction until at least May 1, 2020.
- Mandating that, when out of the home or when at work at an essential business, individuals shall maintain a minimum distance of six feet from other persons.
The Governor also extended the closure of restaurants and bars statewide for dine-in customers until at least April 30, 2020 to align with the new Executive Order.
“We are in the midst of one of the greatest public health crises this world has seen in more than a century. This virus will continue to sicken people across our state; our cases will only grow, and more people will die. I say this to be direct, to be as honest with you as I can. Because saving lives will depend on us,” Mills said in the press conference. “I implore you – look to yourself, your family, your friends, your loved ones, your neighbors on the front lines, first responders and health care workers fighting the virus, those who can’t stay home; the children who live around the corner, the farmer who grows your food, the grocer and the pharmacist who sell you goods, the teachers who are missing their kids; the fisherman, the sailor, the truck driver, the janitor, the waitress at your favorite diner; these are the people you are protecting by staying home. This is who you are saving.”
The Governor’s Executive Order enacts the following:
Stay Healthy at Home Directive
Governor Mills’ “Stay Healthy at Home” Executive Order requires that Maine people remain at home unless to leave for an essential job or an essential activity.
Essential jobs are defined under Governor Mills’ March 24 Executive Order outlining essential businesses and operations. The Governor’s Executive Order today updates the March 24 Executive Order to adopt into effect the most recent Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Essential personal activities include the following with relation to an individual, their family, household members, pets, or livestock:
- Obtaining necessary supplies for household consumption or use, such as groceries, and supplies and equipment needed to work from home, laundry, and products needed to maintain safety, sanitation, and essential maintenance of the home or residence.
- Obtaining medication or medical supplies and seeking medical or behavioral health or emergency services.
- Providing care, including transportation, of oneself, a family member, friend, pet or livestock in another household or location for essential health and safety activities and to obtain necessary supplies and services.
- Traveling to and from an educational institution for purposes of receiving meals or instructional materials for distance learning.
- Engaging in outdoor exercise activities, such as walking, hiking, running, or biking, but, only in compliance with the social gathering restriction in Executive Order 14 and all applicable social distancing guidance published by the U.S. and Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Travel required by a law enforcement officer or court order; and
- Traveling to and from a federal, State, or local government building for a necessary purpose.
The Order prohibits the use of public transportation unless for an essential reason or job that cannot be done from home and limits the number of people traveling in private vehicles to persons within the immediate household unless transporting for essential personal activities.
Termination of In-Person Instruction at Schools
Public and private schools and higher education institutions statewide have terminated in-classroom instruction in accordance with the Governor’s March 15 recommendation. The Governor today ordered that all such schools shall continue to cease classroom or other in-person instruction until at least May 1, 2020, or until further Order.
Restricting Number of People in Essential Stores
Governor Mills’ Executive Order restricts the number of people allowed at essential businesses at any one time, mandates that they conduct as much business as possible by curbside order and pick up or delivery to limit in-person contact, and enforce physical distancing in and around their facilities by prominently posting signs at public entrances and on the floor to notify customers to stay six-feet apart. It also requires that they disinfect the handles of every cart and basket between uses, minimize customer handling of unpurchased merchandise and offer separate operating hours for Maine people over the age of 60 and those with underlying medical conditions.
Under the Executive order, essential stores with retail spaces of:
- Less than 7,500 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 5. Examples of such stores include gas stations and convenience and specialty food stores.
- More than 7,500 and less than 25,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 15. Examples of such stores include stand-alone pharmacies and certain hardware stores.
- More than 25,000 and less than 50,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 50. Examples of such stores include mid-sized and locally owned grocery stores.
- More than 50,000 and less than 75,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 75. Examples of such stores include chain grocery stores.
- More than 75,000 square feet limit the number of customers in the store at one time to 100 and install protective shields between customers and checkout clerks as soon as practicable. Examples of such stores include Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot.
Retailers must enforce these limits and a six-foot separation between any customers waiting in lines. Any essential business which violates this Order will be subject to further on-site restrictions or closure until those violations are addressed. These new requirements adjust and mandate prior recommendations from the Governor regarding essential businesses and operations.
The Order preempts any local ordinance or emergency order of the same subject matter that is less restrictive than or otherwise inconsistent with this Order.
This Order shall be enforced by law enforcement as necessary and violations are a class E crime subject to up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine. In addition, compliance with Section IV of this Order may also be enforced by government officials who regulate licenses, permits or any other authorization to operate a business or occupy a building. It is the Governor’s hope that compliance will be voluntary, and that formal enforcement will not be necessary.
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