ELLSWORTH — Governor Janet Mills on Thursday said that she has yet to decide whether to renew her stay-at-home order or to allow it to expire on April 30.
But it is clear that “things will not return to normal soon,” she said at a press briefing April 23.
Of her state-healthy-at-home mandate issued March 31, she said, “We have no plan yet to either renew it or let it expire, but we will be reviewing it.”
She emphasized that state leaders will base decisions on “fact, science, public health data and common sense” and not be influenced by pressure or arbitrary deadlines.
Her remarks came after the announcement of the sobering news that five more Mainers have died of COVID-19, bringing the total deaths to 44. The most recent victims were residents of the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough and ranged in age from one man in his 50s to two in their 90s. All were from Cumberland County.
Maine’s number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 937, an increase of 30 cases from yesterday. A total of 485 Mainers have recovered from the disease.
On Thursday, Mills reiterated that she would take a gradual, phased-in approach to reopening Maine’s economy, outlining four principles that would guide decision-making. Those are protecting public health, maintaining health care readiness, increasing testing and encouraging public-private collaboration.
“We all want life to return to normal as soon as it is safe to do so. Our hearts break to see closed storefronts and people struggling to make ends meet because of this crisis,” Mills said. “At the same time, we all know that reopening too soon and too aggressively is likely to cause a surge in COVID-19 cases, jeopardizing the lives of Maine people, overwhelming our health care system and further destabilizing the economy. None of us wants that.”
Mills said she is collaborating with Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and Governor Phil Scott of Vermont, as well as other governors, on a regional approach to lifting restrictions.
Asked where things would stand by Memorial Day or whether Maine would have a summer tourism season, Mills said it was too soon to say.
She said with a phased-in approach, the gradual reopening of businesses might be made possible by simple changes, such as closing the employee break room, instituting flexible work hours or installing protective shields or by more dramatic changes such as changing a business’s whole sales approach.
She cautioned that whether an activity involved or encouraged travel in or out of the state, particularly to or from areas with outbreaks, would be an important factor in determining when or how that activity would resume.
To solicit ideas from the public on how to resume business while protecting public health, the state has launched a portal on the Department of Economic and Community Development website (www.maine.gov/decd).
“We invite all Maine people to take part in the discussion,” said Governor Mills. “Give us your specific ideas on how we can do things differently, how we can restart the economy and keep all our people safe and healthy. We want to hear from you.”
Asked whether scientific models predict when cases may level off in Maine, Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the models help officials plan for various scenarios, but they don’t predict the future.
Ultimately, “the virus does what the virus does,” he said.