AUGUSTA, Maine — As the country and state officials debate when and how to begin restarting the economy, a leader of one of Maine’s hardest hit business segments says we should not be in a rush to reopen.
No part of Maine’s economy has been hit harder by the health and economic crisis than restaurants and hotels --the hospitality industry.
Tens of thousands of hospitality workers people have been laid off as bars and restaurants have been shut down for more than a month. Then, along with a self- quarantine order for travelers from out of state, the Governor ordered hotels and other lodging places to close, except for a few critical situations. The result? Still more workers temporarily unemployed, more businesses with no income.
Like workers and business owners everywhere, the hospitality industry wonders when it will be able to reopen.
“I think everyone is anxious to get things moving again, but that doesn’t mean they want to be reckless about the process,” said Greg Dugal, head of government affairs for the Maine Hospitality Association.
“I think everyone is supporting the Governor and Dr. Shah and their efforts to make sure we are all safe, and that when the time to open is presented we will be looking at a different business model for a time.”
Dugal said that model could include wearing masks in restaurants and in public, as well as continued forms of social distancing.
Governor Janet Mills has said Maine will need to see fewer cases and more testing before restrictions can be loosened.
The Governor issued a statement late Friday afternoon about President Trump’s strategy for reopening the economy, which calls for more testing and more availability of protective equipment for health care workers as some of the requirements for states to begin easing restrictions. Mills said she and other Governors need support from the federal government to have the materials to reach those goals.
Dr. Nirav Shah of the Maine CDC said the essential requirement is a plan that won’t result in a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases.
“The sooner we open the higher the risk of secondary bump in cases, especially if we open too early,” Dr. Shah said, adding that Maine needs to adapt the White House guidelines to work here.
“It's our job to look at the document and determine how to apply it in a Maine specific context to avoid the BMP we are concerned about making sure we keep scientific principles top of mind."
Gov. Mills said she will consult with business leaders and other experts and have a detailed plan “in the near future."
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