FARMINGTON, Maine — A week after Maine first started to require the use of face masks or coverings in public when social distancing is not possible, law enforcement is not yet strictly enforcing it.
Instead, many agencies are choosing to lead by example amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's a safety issue for both them and us,” Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Lt. David Rackliffe said.
Gov. Janet Mills issued an emergency order on the issue last week.
Since then, agencies like Rackliffe’s have been regularly wearing coverings themselves—to protect officers and the people they interact with.
"It's important that we're giving the impression that we're taking necessary steps to protect the public,” Rackliffe said.
Deputies in Franklin County and officers at departments across the state are equipped with masks and coverings manufactured by the Maine company Origin.
The Farmington-based athletic products manufacturer known for its Jiu Jitsu gear first refocused its efforts when the COVID-19 outbreak intensified in March.
Since then, CEO Pete Roberts said it has distributed thousands of masks to health care providers and first responders in Maine and across the country.
"We're going to try and not just take care of our community, but the state as well,” Roberts said. "It's awesome to see the impact this tiny little company in the foothills of western Maine has had."
Origin’s products provide a more practical option for officers to wear day to day, especially as access to traditional personal protective equipment, PPE, is still a challenge for many towns and cities.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has received some traditional equipment from local donors and state officials to be used in situations where an individual is or could be symptomatic.
Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, addressed the current need in a press conference on Wednesday.
"Given that PPE remains a scarce resource, we're making sure that we first provided PPE to individuals in congregate settings like nursing homes as well as first responders at the local level,” he said.
The order remains in effect. Children under the age of two and those who have trouble breathing are exempt.
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