(The Center Square) – Gov. Janet Mills signed a series of bills designed to pump millions into Maine’s economy and also announced new recommendations for business closures as the number of coronavirus cases in the state increased to 42.
The governor also issued an executive order mandating that all restaurants and bars close to dine-in customer, although it allows takeout and drive-through service to continue. The order takes effect at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The order also prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people, including faith-based events, fundraisers and sporting events.
While Mills did not make it an order, she also urged nonessential businesses including casinos, malls and theaters to close for the next two weeks. Businesses that provide essential services such as grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, banks, health care and child care facilities can remain open. Other businesses were encouraged to let employees work remotely.
“I do not take these steps lightly,” Mills said in a news conference. “Maine’s small businesses and their workers are the backbone of our economy, and I understand that these actions will not only impact them, they will also disrupt the lives of Maine people. However, COVID-19 continues to spread across Maine and more aggressive action is required to mitigate that spread and to protect the health and welfare of Maine people.”
COVID-19 is the World Health Organization's official name for the disease that often results from a coronavirus infection. Disease symptoms include respiratory distress, fever and soreness.
Mills also signed an $11 million state funding bill that will give state and local officials more money and authority to respond to the virus. The bill includes:
• A consumer loan program in partnership with banks that will offer low or no-interest loans for eligible residents.
• Authorization that allows Mills to stop utilities from disconnecting residential service.
• A continuation of the school lunch program and the waiver of certain school day requirements.
• The expansion of the state’s unemployment program to extend to workers affected by COVID-19.
• The authorization to allow cities, counties and other government entities to meet remotely.
• A possible change in the June 20 primary.
• A delay in the effective date of the single-use plastic ban bag until January.
One million dollars is allocated to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the costs of tests and other items not funded by the federal government.
Dr. Nirav Shaw, director of the Maine CDC gave more details on the state’s 42 cases and the tests administered.
• Four people are hospitalized
• Three cases were transferred to the states where the patients reside.
• The number of negative tests is 1,670.
• Cumberland County has the most cases with 23.