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Covid-19 Updates

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December 01, 2020
Governor Mills Announces 9:00 PM Closures For Some Businesses Beginning Friday November 20.
Due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and positivity rates, the Governor announced today new public safety measures. Note that the 9 PM closure time does not extend to retail.

From the Governor’s press release:

Beginning Friday, November 20, 2020, through Sunday, December 6, 2020, all outdoor and indoor amusement venues, movie theaters, performing arts venues, casinos, and businesses that provide seated food and drink service, including social clubs, restaurants, and bars and tasting rooms currently open for outdoor service, will close for the night by 9:00 p.m. This limit on hours is designed to limit extended gatherings at a time when many students and family members are returning to Maine and at a time when social gatherings are more common, both of which will likely lead to more COVID-19 transmission.

Read Press Release Here

Updated Guidance For Ski Areas From DECD
November 17, 2020
The Department of Economic and Community Development has released updated checklists for indoor spaces at ski areas. Please go here for the updated guidance on retail, lodging, food service, transportation and other activities related to ski areas. Outdoor activities that take place at ski areas are covered by the National Ski Areas Association which has developed guidance to assist ski areas in safely hosting outdoor activities.

Find Updated Ski Area Checklists Here


CHANGES TO STAGE 4 EFFECTIVE NOW (NOV. 5)
In response to increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in Maine and the nation, the Governor updated Stage 4 on Nov. 1, 2020 to the following:

·    Effective Nov. 4, 2020, the limit on indoor gatherings will return to a maximum 50 people, while maintaining critical public health measures outlined in COVID-19 Prevention Checklists.

·    For non-seated indoor activities, such as physical activity in gyms, the limit remains at 50.

·    The outdoor gathering limit remains at 100 people.

·    Retailers remain subject to the occupancy limit of 5 people per 1,000 square feet of shopping space.

·    The reopening date for indoor seated service for bars and tasting rooms is postponed. Once permitted to reopen to indoor seated service, establishments must commit to abiding by the new COVID-19 Prevention Checklist for seated food and drink service, which is an update to the restaurant checklist.

·    Per executive order, the state’s face covering mandate now requires a broader set of entities, such as private schools and local government buildings, to join restaurants, lodging, and retail establishments, to ensure that employees and people in their buildings adhere to this critical health measure.

·    The executive order also expands the scope of the enforcement statewide, rather than in just Maine’s coastal counties and more populous cities.
 
You can find all checklists with the most recent updates on DECD’s website here, including the seating food and drink service which includes the following language:

Establishments must comply with the following occupancy limits for indoor and outdoor seated food and drink service: (Updated 11/4/20)

For indoor seated gatherings, the total number of people at any one time must be no more than 50 per room, with no more than two rooms used. This includes front-of-house staff. Tables should be spaced to ensure that guests of separate parties are no less than 6 feet apart when seated. (Updated 11/4/20)


Governor Mills Makes Changes To Business & Travel Regulations
Sunday, November 1, 2020  Today Governor Mills announces changes to several business regulations and travel restrictions.

Beginning Wednesday, November 4, indoor gatherings will return to a maximum of 50 people, regardless of capacity. The gathering limit on outdoor activities remains at 100 people under existing guidelines, with physical distancing and the use of face coverings. Occupancy limits for retail establishments will remain at 5 people per 1,000 square feet of shopping space.

Indoor seated bar and tasting room service will not be permitted on Monday as originally scheduled. It is postponed until further notice.

The 14-day Quarantine or COVID testing within72 hours is reinstated for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut beginning Wednesday, November 4. Travelers from New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts are still exempt. The Governor indicated Massachusetts may be removed from the exempt list in the future if their COVID numbers continue to worsen.

Read the full press release here. Excerpts follow:

Reducing Indoor Gathering Limits
While the Mills Administration’s priority is to encourage voluntary compliance with public health and safety measures that mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Administration is also taking measures to reduce large gatherings, a primary concern of public health experts. Effective Wednesday, November 4, indoor gatherings will return to a maximum of 50 people, regardless of capacity. The gathering limit on outdoor activities remains at 100 people under existing guidelines, with physical distancing and the use of face coverings. Occupancy limits for retail establishments will remain at 5 people per 1,000 square feet of shopping space. The Mills Administration had previously increased indoor seating limits to 50 percent of permitted capacity or 100 people, whichever was less.

Postponing the Reopening of Bars and Tasting Rooms
The Administration previously anticipated reopening bars and tasting rooms to indoor seated service on Monday, November 2, 2020. But in light of rising COVID-19 case numbers in Maine and scientific evidence that the unique environment of bars, including enclosed spaces where people gather with members outside their own household while talking loudly and not wearing face coverings, elevates the risk of COVID-19 transmission, the reopening of bars and tasting rooms for indoor seated service is postponed until further notice. The Administration will continue to evaluate public health metrics to determine when it is safe to reopen bars and tasting rooms for indoor seated service.

Adjusting States Exempt from Maine’s Quarantine or Testing Alternative
The Administration also announced that, effective Wednesday, November 4, 2020, people traveling from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are no longer exempt from Maine’s quarantine or negative test requirement. People coming here from these states must either quarantine for 14 days or receive a negative COVID-19 test with a sample taken less than 72 hours from arrival in Maine, quarantining while awaiting test results. This protocol includes Maine residents returning from one of the non-exempt states.

The travel decision comes after the Administration reviewed recent public health data, including other states' rapidly rising prevalence of the virus and positivity rates. In reviewing these metrics, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey demonstrated an alarming increase in prevalence of the virus. New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts remain exempt from the 14-day quarantine or negative test requirement, although the Administration is closely evaluating public health metrics in Massachusetts and may reinstate the quarantine or negative test requirement if trends do not improve.

Even with these updated travel protocols, Governor Mills strongly recommends that visitors from exempt states and Maine people returning from exempt states, especially during the upcoming holiday season, obtain a test in order to “Know Before You Go.” Under the Department of Health and Human Services Standing Order, any person in Maine who feels they need a test, with or without symptoms, can get a test without an order from a primary care provider.

The Mills Administration also recently announced it will distribute 400,000 rapid antigen tests, including 300,000 provided to up to 65 Walgreens pharmacy locations from Kittery to Madawaska. Testing will be available to the public at no charge as a drive-through service at a future date in November. People can find COVID-19 testing sites near them via the website https://get-tested-covid19.org/.


Governor Mills Continues State of Civil Emergency as Maine Fights COVID-19

October 29, 2020  Governor Janet Mills today extended the State of Civil Emergency (PDF) for thirty days through November 27, 2020. The Governor’s decision to extend the emergency is in line with nearly every other state in the nation which have ongoing emergency declarations, according to the National Governors Association. For example, the State of Vermont extended its State of Emergency earlier this month.

“Rising case counts show that this virus is still very much among us and we must take every precaution to slow its spread,” said Governor Mills. “If we protect ourselves and protect one another by washing our hands frequently, maintaining six feet distance between ourselves and others, and wearing a face covering whenever possible, we can limit the spread of this dangerous virus, ensure our businesses survive these colder months, and keep our schools open as we enter winter.”

A State of Civil Emergency allows Maine to draw down critical Federal resources and to deploy all available tools to respond to and contain COVID-19.  This is Governor Mills’ eighth extension of the State of Civil Emergency. Under Maine law, Proclamations of Civil Emergencies may be issued in thirty day increments.


Governor Mills Announces First Round of Economic Recovery Grants to Maine Small Businesses & Non-Profits
 
October 15, 2020 Governor Janet Mills and Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Heather Johnson announced today that the Mills Administration has begun distributing the first round of financial awards to Maine small businesses and non-profits through the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program.

Grant letters notifying the recipients of their award were sent yesterday in collaboration with Maine’s seven Economic Development Districts, which will distribute funds by early November. The program, backed by $200 million in Federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF), provides some financial relief for businesses and non-profit organizations that incurred business disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2,329 awards, which include 2,072 to small businesses and 257 to non-profits, total $105 million dollars and average just over $45,000 per award with recipients spanning the entire state. The hospitality sector, particularly lodging and accommodations, represent the largest percentage of recipients, drawing 35 percent of the awards. The grants are intended to help sustain the viability of Maine’s small businesses and nonprofits - not to replace lost profits - and will provide short-term relief to help stabilize Maine’s economy. At the same time, the Administration continues to focus on the state’s long-term goals described in the state’s 10-year strategic economic development plan. The program draws on a recommendation from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee.

“There is no question that Maine’s small businesses are struggling to survive unprecedented economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Mills. “While these funds will not make them whole, they offer some lifeline to keep afloat those small businesses that are at the core of our economy. I encourage all eligible businesses and nonprofits to apply for the second round of this relief as I continue to call on Congress to provide more direct aid to the State of Maine.”

The Mills Administration worked with the seven Economic Development Districts across the state to operationalize the program. Based on eligibility requirements, which align with allowable uses of CARES Act CRF monies under guidance provided by the U.S. Treasury Department, the Economic Development Districts determined the eligibility of each application, consulting with state agencies when needed. If a small business or non-profit were determined to not meet eligibility requirements, they were also notified yesterday, including a justification for the denial so that the organization can determine their eligibility for Phase 2 of the grant program.

On September 21st, Governor Mills announced the second phase of the Economic Recovery Grant Program. This second phase expands access to the program by increasing the number of eligible organizations. Under Phase 2, businesses and non-profits that employ up to 250 people are eligible for grant awards. In addition, licensed childcare and behavioral health organizations will be eligible in this round, along with businesses and non-profits that are less than one year old. The application portal for Phase Two of the Economic Recovery Grant Program remains open until October 23, 2020.

“There are a number of areas of our economy that have been severely impacted as a result of the pandemic,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of Economic and Community Development. “We hope this program can help support businesses during this difficult time.”

Grants awarded through the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program may be used to cover expenses including: payroll costs and expenses; rent or mortgage payments for business facilities; utilities payments; necessary operating expenses; expenses incurred to replenish inventory or other necessary re-opening expenses; purchase of personal protective equipment required by the business or business related equipment. Funds must be spent on operations that are strictly within Maine. Recipients are liable for any misuse of funds, and the grants are subject to audit.

Maine small businesses and non-profits interested in applying for the program can do so at the Department of Economic and Community’s website. The website also includes additional information and answers to frequently asked questions.


MOT SHARES NEW MASK POSTERS
 
The Maine Office of Tourism today released “Wear a Mask” posters in two sizes that are printable. While you are not required to use these, they can be helpful as they have the state seal and are clearly government issued.
 
Also released is the lodging Certificate of Compliance in a fillable form format found here.
 

 
LEGISLATIVE HEARING FRIDAY ON TAKE OUT ALCOHOL
 
Tomorrow, Friday, July 31st at 11:00 am, there will be a public hearing on LR 3333, which would extend take-out alcohol through April 15, 2022.
 
Here is part of the proposal’s summary:
This bill temporarily permits, until April 15, 2022, certain categories of on-premises retailers to sell liquor to customers through take-out and delivery service if the liquor is accompanied by a food order. The bill also temporarily permits licensed Maine distilleries and small distilleries that operate tasting rooms but that do not operate licensed on-premises retail establishments to sell spirits through take-out and delivery service unaccompanied by a food order.

Under the bill, wine and malt liquor may only be sold for off-premises consumption in an original container. Spirits may only be sold for off-premises consumption as an ingredient of an approved cocktail, which must be sealed in a tamper-evident container bearing a label identifying the vendor.
  • ‌To testify live: send an email to lio@legislature.maine.gov or call (207) 287-1692 as soon as possible. LIO will ask for your name and send you the link to the Zoom meeting. When it is your turn to testify, the chairs will turn on your video/audio feed in the Zoom meeting.
  • To submit written testimony: Because this bill has not yet been printed, you cannot submit testimony through the Legislature’s on-line testimony submission portal. Instead, please send your written testimony to lio@legislature.maine.gov with “LR 3333 written testimony” in the subject line (LIO will send the testimony to the Committee). 
Note: submitting written testimony does not automatically sign you up for providing live testimony, and vice versa. You follow the instructions for each activity.
 
Live video broadcast of the meeting can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrvfi88SlVram_puSIkm3Fw
 
Audio broadcast can be found here: http://legislature.maine.gov/Audio/#228

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