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Portland City Council postpones vote on indoor mask mandate

The Council was originally slated to vote on the proposal, however voted 8-1 to postpone the vote after concerns of the proposal were raised

PORTLAND, Maine — For now, it remains up to Portland residents and businesses whether to wear a mask in indoor public settings. This comes after the Portland City Council voted 8-1 to delay a vote on an emergency declaration that would require masks to be worn in most indoor public settings in the city.

"I walked into tonight's meeting feeling inclined to support the changes that were made to the emergency order, but right now I'm finding myself with more questions than I started with," said Portland Mayor Kate Snyder. 

The council heard roughly an hour of public on the topic, and then the council debated the mask mandate for about an hour at its meeting Monday.

Many businesses owners spoke out against the proposal, fearing the impact it would have on business. A number of restaurants, fitness centers, and others did not support a new mask mandate.

"A lot of people have already said, they're just going to go to other communities. We had tourists in over the weekend that were talking about it said we'd chose a different destination instead of coming to Portland," said Shaun McCarthy, owner of the restaurant Dock Four.

In addition to the impact it may have on businesses, councilors had a number of other issues with the proposal. Questions were raised about access to PPE should a mandate be in place and how the city would enforce the mandate. Councilors were also concerned as decisions were being driven by transmission data in Cumberland County, as opposed to the city of Portland specifically. 

The City Council is expected to revisit the topic at its meeting on Monday, September 20. 

While some businesses are opposed to a mask mandate, some are in support, like the owners of Portland Hunt and Alpine Club.

"It's the right move for our community, it's the right move for our kids, it's the right move for our frontline workers and it's the right move for Portland," said Andrew Volk, co-owner of Portland Hunt and Alpine Club. "It protects our community, and our workers that really don't have much of a choice to be on the front lines."

Multiple other councilors initially showed support for the mask mandate as well, such as Councilor Tae Chong. "What we're trying to do is make sure that we make sure that the public's health is safe for everyone, whether you're vaccinated they're vaccinated or not vaccinated," said Chong during the meeting. He was one of the eight councilors who voted to postpone the decision on a mask mandate for the city.

Councilor Andrew Zarro, who introduced the topic was the lone vote against postponing the vote. 

Multiple councilors and Mayor Snyder stated during the meeting, they hoped the state would take action to create a mask mandate, as it did at the start of the pandemic last year. 

"I believe that the state should act, I believe the state should put in place a mask mandate," said Councilor Spencer Thibodeau.

As proposed on Monday, the mask mandate would be in effect for all those in public, indoor settings above age two. Masks would not be required for places of worship. 

You can read the full proposal here.