Legislative Alert: Governor Janet Mills Updates the Keep Maine Healthy Program
Last month, Governor Mills made a number of adjustments to the state’s Keep Maine Healthy Program, allowing for greater capacity for indoor dining, establishing opening dates for indoor service at bars and tasting rooms, and adding additional states that could allow its residents to cross our borders without the need for quarantining or testing. With a dramatic increase in positive COVID-19 cases emerging over the course of the past week and Maine experiencing daily new cases hitting triple digits for the first time since the pandemic started in March, on November 1st Governor Mills announced changes to help control the spread of the coronavirus. Those changes are outlined below.
Bars and Tasting Rooms
Governor Mills previously announced November 2nd as the target date for bars and tasting rooms to resume indoor seated service. Citing the significant rise in cases in less than seven days, the Chief Executive said, “we cannot in good conscience proceed with the planned reopening.” No future date of an anticipated reopening was provided by the Administration.
Indoor Gathering Capacity
Effective November 4th, indoor gatherings will return to a maximum of 50 people, regardless of capacity. As you may recall, on October 13th the allowed indoor gathering limit was increased to 50 percent of permitted occupancy of that facility, up to a maximum of 100 people, for seated activities. Examples of such activities and facilities include indoor dining, religious gatherings, school cafeterias, and movie theaters. The loosening of those restrictions occurred last month because of Maine’s low hospitalizations, new cases, and deaths – metrics that have dramatically increased over the past week. No additional changes have been made to the outdoor gathering limit, which is 100 people (adhering to physical distancing and the use of face coverings). Retail establishments’ occupancy limits will also remain at 5 people per 1,000 square feet of shopping space.
Also, effective November 4th, Maine will remove three states currently exempt from its quarantine and testing requirements. Travelers from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut must once again either quarantine for up to 14 days while awaiting test results or provide a negative COVID-19 test from a sample taken within 72 hours of arriving in Maine. These states were previously exempt from this requirement during the summer. Although New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts residents traveling to Maine will continue to be allowed to cross state borders freely without the need of testing or quarantining, Massachusetts is being closely monitored by the Administration and may be removed from the exempt list should that state’s metrics continue to trend in the wrong direction.
In yesterday’s announcement, Governor Mills strongly recommended that visitors from (and Mainers returning from) exempt states obtain a test in order to know their COVID-19 status in an effort to control the spread of the virus. Any person in Maine who feels they need a test, irrespective of experiencing symptoms, may get a test without an order from their physician. In order to meet increased demand for testing, the Mills Administration announced last week it will distribute 400,000 rapid antigen tests starting later in November. Approximately 75 percent of those tests will be provided to up to 65 Walgreens pharmacy locations statewide. Testing will be available to the public as a drive-through service and free of charge.
Additional information regarding these latest changes may be found in the press release issued by Governor Mills on Sunday. To find a testing location near you, please visit Get Tested COVID-19.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to one of our practice group members.