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Mills postpones restaurant reopening for dine-in customers in 3 Maine counties

Stage 2, beginning on June 1, originally allowed for restaurants to reopen to dine-in customers, but are now restricted to outside seating, take-out, and delivery.
Credit: Photo: AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills has announced another revision to her place to reopen the Maine economy as the state approaches Stage 2 of the plan, which begins on June 1. Mills now says restaurants in Androscoggin, Cumberland, and York Counties are restricted to outdoor service, take-out, and delivery only, opposed to being able to fully reopen to dine-in customers as the plan originally called for.

A date for the reopening of dine-in services in the three counties is yet to be determined.

The Administration says that although Penobscot County has been identified as an area with community transmission, restaurants in Penobscot County will be allowed to voluntarily reopen for both indoor and outdoor dining services with strict health precautions on June 1, joining the other 12 rural counties that were previously permitted to reopen. The decision to allow Penobscot County restaurants to reopen as scheduled results in part because the county has not had more than three new cases a day since April.

Mills says the postponement comes amidst an increase in hospitalizations as well as an increase in COVID-19 cases in these three counties.

“Given the trends we are seeing in certain parts of Maine, our Administration is revising the plan to align with what is in the best interest of public health. To that end, rather than permitting dine-in services in Androscoggin, Cumberland, and York Counties as we had originally planned, we will be allowing outside dining only with precautions, a move we believe is safer for the health of Maine people and that balances the economic needs of these businesses,” Mills said in a statement. 

Mills discussed the changes to her plan on Wednesday at the daily Maine CDC coronavirus briefing. 

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Watch the briefing here:

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Aside from this revision for Cumberland, York, and Androscoggin Counties, Stage 2 will move forward as planned.

In the wake of this change, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Administrative and Financial Services, which have licensing authority, are streamlining and expediting approval of licenses to facilitate outside-only dining.

Additionally, on June 1, retail businesses in York, Cumberland, Androscoggin, and Penobscot counties – counties where these businesses have been closed to indoor shopping – will also be permitted to voluntarily reopen, also with strict, sector-specific health and safety precautions. These businesses now join those in the other twelve counties permitted to reopen as part of the Governor’s rural reopening plan.

The Administration says they are continuing to closely review the status of gyms, fitness centers, and nail salons, the reopening of which were paused last week as a result of concerns about the transmission of the virus in these settings.

“We recognize this is an incredibly difficult time for the business community, and we will do all we can to work collaboratively to develop solutions that keep people safe and create opportunities for businesses,” Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development said. “We believe that is what we have done here, and we will continue to examine similar opportunities moving forward.”

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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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