AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday that Maine will adopt the latest mask guidance from the U.S. CDC for those who are fully vaccinated. Effective May 24, masks will no longer be required in public indoor spaces.
The updated comes one day after Mills announced updates to the state's reopening plan, called the "Moving Maine Forward Plan," which eased capacity limits and outdoor physical distancing requirements. Thursday's update, however, was announced as the U.S. CDC released its new guidance.
During a press conference Thursday, the governor and Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said they would need time to review the U.S. CDC's guidance before making any decision to adopt it.
The Mills administration said overnight, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Maine CDC reviewed the new federal guidelines and recommended their adoption to the governor, who agreed.
“We welcome this new guidance and we agree – being vaccinated is the best way to protect you and your loved ones from COVID-19,” Mills said Friday in a statement. “After a review of the new guidance, we are adopting the U.S. CDC’s recommendations, and we continue to strongly urge all Maine people to get their shots. There are appointments available across the state right now. As we get back to normal, rolling up your sleeve is going to ensure that you stay healthy and alive. Please don’t wait. Get your shot now.”
In addition to the indoor mask requirement being lifted for those fully vaccinated, the physical distancing requirement at indoor public settings where people are eating or drinking and therefore would be removing their face covering—such as indoor restaurants, bars, dining areas in camps or in congregate living facilities, and break rooms—will also be lifted on May 24.
The Mills administration recommends, in line with the U.S. CDC guidelines, that people who are not fully vaccinated continue to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. Masks are still required on all forms of public transportation.
"It's really important to note that the change that we are announcing today applies to those who are fully vaccinated," Shah said during a press conference Friday. "Fully vaccinated -- that mark occurs fourteen days after your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or fourteen days after your sole dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But we can't underscore enough that the policy change today -- the need not to wear masks in indoor public spaces -- only applies to those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19."
Mills lifted the outdoor face-covering requirement on April 27.
"Additionally, in light of the increased role the U.S. CDC has assumed in issuing guidance, the State of Maine will begin retiring its COVID-19 Prevention Checklists and transitioning to U.S. CDC guidelines as appropriate," the administration said in a release.
The Maine Department of Education’s requirements and recommendations for schools, along with other federal requirements, remain in effect. It is expected the U.S. CDC will release additional guidance for schools and other venues.
"Businesses and other organizations may, consistent with legal obligations, adopt policies for their employees or clients that either require vaccination or require proof of vaccination in order to avoid wearing a mask," the administration said.
"This is a quickly evolving and moving landscape. There are going to have to be others that weigh in. Stores will have to check with their own legal teams to understand the parameters of when they can ask somebody to leave, what types of proof they can ask somebody to furnish," Shah added during Friday's press conference. "Are they going to ask folks to show their card? Things of that nature. Those are going to be questions that different types of businesses are going to have to inquire about and come up to their own conclusions about. We won't be able to answer every single one of those today but that's going to have to be the framework. It's the same framework we addressed and thought through a year ago when it comes to masks, and that's where we eventually got to."
A spokesperson for Hannaford Supermarkets told NEWS CENTER Maine there is no change to their mask requirement for customers and employees "at this time."
The owners of Portland Hunt and Alpine Club said putting this on business owners puts them in an uncomfortable situation and said it’s not fair to them.
“I was disappointed there wasn’t guidelines for restaurant and bars yet. We’re still dealing with our staff isn’t fully vaccinated yet and many people in hospitality are not fully vaccinated. It’s really depending on people to be honest before they are coming into a space and trusting them to then keep our staff safe as well,” said Briana Volk, co-owner of Portland Hunt and Alpine Club.
“We have a lot of jobs and responsibilities already given the pandemic and keeping people safe and making sure people are vaccinated is another responsibility and another job that really shouldn’t be put on hospitality workers,” said Andrew Volk, co-owner of Portland Hunt and Alpine.
Portland Hunt and Alpine have only been open to outdoor dining. The Volk’s said they will be taking it day by day and are waiting until their staff is fully vaccinated to start opening their doors to indoor dining.