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Maine lawmakers discuss proper face coverings during session

Legislative leaders on Thursday settled upon several acceptable styles of face shields that can be worn as an alternative to traditional masks.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Editor's Note: The above video aired Friday, Jan. 22.

Maine’s legislative session is already a month old, but lawmakers are just now coming to a consensus on what exactly constitutes a proper face covering.

Legislative leaders on Thursday settled upon several acceptable styles of face shields that can be worn as an alternative to traditional masks.

Rep. Joel Stetkis, assistant House Republican leader, said it’s important to have alternatives to traditional masks for those with breathing difficulties or who have “claustrophobic issues.”

“They have breathing issues so that a mask that you or I could wear is actually less healthy for them and in some cases would actually make them pass out,” he said.

The consensus was reached after several recent mask miscues, including one in which Republican lawmakers were seen without masks in a video livestreamed by a GOP lawmaker.

RELATED: Half face shields cause controversy at Maine State House

That episode was written off as a misunderstanding but several GOP lawmakers caused another stir by wearing chin shields. Those shields, which cover half the face, are deemed by public health officials to be ineffective at reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

A committee clerk already quit because of fears that some lawmakers weren’t taking coronavirus precautions seriously. Across the country, about 200 state lawmakers have contracted the virus.

On Thursday, no one on the Legislative Council pushed back against the use of masks. The only question was what’s acceptable, and what’s not.

Under legislative protocols, masks or face shields must be worn in legislative spaces, but lawmakers can take them off if they’re alone in an office or in their own cubicle where they can socially distance.

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