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Portland health officials recommend city restore indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status

City councilors will discuss a mask mandate at a workshop at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and may take action on a mandate at the regular council meeting to follow.

PORTLAND, Maine — Portland health officials are supporting a proposal to mandate mask-wearing in all public indoor spaces, regardless of a person’s vaccination status.

The proposal comes after City Councilor Andrew Zarro requested a workshop to discuss adopting a local mask mandate amid a surge of new COVID-19 cases caused by the highly contagious delta variant.

The recommendation comes as COVID-19 cases increase across the state and the country, just as the weather is getting colder and people begin spending more time indoors.

In a Sept 1 memo to City Manager Jon Jennings, city health officials endorsed the proposed mandate and urged that it take effect immediately and last until the CDC releases new guidance or Cumberland County transmission falls into the low or moderate level for at least 21 days.

Cumberland County has largely seen substantial and high transmission rates since the beginning of August.

Ten states and the District of Columbia had imposed statewide mask mandates as of Sept. 1, city attorney Danielle P. West told the council in a memo, and six states have imposed mask mandates in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status.

In addition, West wrote, about 70 county and municipal governments had imposed some sort of mask requirement.

Unlike previous strains, the delta variant can be transmitted by people who have been vaccinated, although vaccinated individuals experience less severe symptoms and are less likely to be hospitalized. And it’s having a greater impact on children, most of whom are too young to be vaccinated.

The City Council will discuss an indoor mask mandate at a workshop scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday and will consider reinstating a mandate at its regular meeting at 5 p.m.