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Portland mask mandate begins

As of Wednesday, masks are required in all indoor public spaces in Portland for those two and older.

PORTLAND, Maine — Anyone planning to visit a Portland business soon should be sure to bring a mask. 

On Wednesday, a mask mandate for the city was enacted after receiving unanimous approval by the Portland City Council.

Several businesses have already started to place signs outside, reminding customers that masks are required.

"I think it's a strategy of risk mitigation to slow the spread until we get through this omicron wave," said Isaac MacDougal, owner of Cocktail Mary on Congress Street.

According to the city's new mask mandate, all those age 2 and older will be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces. However, businesses that require proof of vaccination will not need to require masks to be worn.

According to Portland officials, businesses will be the first line of enforcement in ensuring compliance with the mask mandate. Businesses will also be required to display "mask required" signs by Monday.

"I think it really is the best-case scenario for what's a pretty bad scenario for everyone involved," MacDougal said.

Businesses will have some support from the city for enforcement. A local health officer has been appointed as a constable to help with enforcement. Tickets may be issued to those in violation of the mandate. Those violations could bring a fine of up to $500 for each violation.

While some businesses support the mandate, others are concerned about the adverse effects it may cause.

Owner of Jibe Cycling Studio Joanna Pease said she's concerned it could force customers to feel targeted and lead to customers choosing to go elsewhere.

"Either we may be singling out people. Maybe worst-case scenario, we'd have to turn someone away. And also not [a] great scenario, people might just stop coming," Pease said.

The Portland City Council discussed bringing back an indoor mask mandate as recently as last fall. At the time, a measure was not supported by the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce. However, chamber president and CEO Quincy Hentzel said rising cases in Maine have contributed to the change in opinion.

"Our local organizations and businesses rely on a healthy workforce to serve the community," Hentzel said. "It was the right thing to do, and the responsible thing to do for us to support the mask mandate to really help stop the spread or at least slow of the spread of the virus in our community."

The City of Portland also ordered surgical masks and window decals to be distributed to local businesses.

Masks will be available to pick up at Portland City Hall, via the Myrtle Street entrance, on Thursday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and on Tuesday at the same location and time.

Window decals will not be available during Thursday's distribution but will be available for Tuesday's distribution.

The Portland Public Health Division will also host a pop-up event on Jan. 12 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 39 Forest Ave. with mask supplies and window decals and offering vaccines and boosters available with no appointment needed.

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