Mills orders businesses to enforce face covering requirement

ELLSWORTH — Some businesses in Hancock County and other coastal counties, including retail stores with more than 50,000 square feet of shopping space, restaurants, outdoor bars or tasting rooms and lodging establishments, will be required to enforce the Governor’s face covering requirement or face possible licensing violations.

Governor Janet Mills on Wednesday issued an executive order effective immediately that those businesses in Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland, and York, as well as in the cities of Bangor, Brewer, Lewiston, Auburn, and Augusta, enforce the state’s face covering requirement.

The order also allows municipalities to enforce the use of face coverings on streets and sidewalks, in parks and other public spaces where keeping 6 feet apart is difficult.

“It is important that we wear face coverings as people begin to interact more and more,” said Governor Mills in a press release. “Doing so can slow the spread of COVID-19, protect the health and safety of those around us, support businesses and allow us to safely reopen our economy. I know it may be inconvenient for some, but I also believe that Maine people care about each other, and this simple gesture is a small price to pay for knowing you could save someone’s life.”

Residents and visitors have been required to wear face coverings in public places where physical distancing is hard to maintain since April and businesses have been required to post readily visible signs notifying customers of this face covering requirement since May. The May order also gave businesses license to deny entry or service to anyone without a face covering.

Any governmental department or official that regulates licenses, permits or otherwise authorizes the operation or occupancy of eating establishments, bars or tasting rooms, lodging operations and accommodations, businesses, buildings, parks and campgrounds also can enforce the order.

Businesses that don’t comply may be subject to penalties associated with license violations, such as a revocation of said licenses or permits. The administration has established a reporting form for alleged violations of the state’s health and safety protocols.

Recent research has found that a significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 do not experience symptoms, and that those who go on to develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before feeling sick. While face coverings may not protect the wearers, they may prevent the spread of virus, although scientists have been quick to warn that they are no substitute for physical distancing and other recommendations.

“Research shows that face coverings help limit potential transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement. “Wearing a face covering in public places where physical distancing is difficult shows respect for others and reduces the risk that the virus could spread as more people move about Maine.”

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