FILE - ME Janet Mills 6-27-2019

Maine Gov. Janet Mills speaks during a news conference June 27, 2019.

(The Center Square) – Maine Gov. Janet Mills issued a mandate Tuesday that public-facing, nonessential businesses close down their operations to customers but stopped short of issuing any sort of “shelter-in-place” rule.

The governor also ordered companies with more than 10 workers that can’t enforce social distancing rules to shut down operations. The directives go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and continue through April 8.

Mills also asked essential businesses to take steps to limit the density within the stores through measures such as only allowing a certain number of customers at once.

“Today, I am taking further action to mitigate the spread of the virus, to protect the health of our loved ones and fellow citizens, and to safeguard the capacity of our health care system,” Mills said. “I recognize these decisions will create significant difficulties for people and businesses across our state, but we are confronting an unprecedented challenge that is threatening the health and safety of our people.”

Maine previously banned gatherings of more than 10 people and ordered the closure of all restaurants and bars.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Maine has 118 diagnosed cases of coronavirus. More than half of those – 74 – are in Cumberland County, where Portland, the state’s largest city, is located.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that residents of Maine should operate under the assumption that they will be exposed to the virus if they don’t heed health officials’ warnings.

“Maine people should live their lives as if COVID-19 is in their community,” Shah said. “Physical distancing in every part of Maine is crucial to limit potential spread of the virus. You can be there for loved ones without being in the same place.”

Regional Editor

Dave Lemery is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. He was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship newspaper was named best weekly in Illinois, and he has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.