Restarting Maine’s Economy

Introduction 

Updated Nov 1, 2020

As a result of months of tireless efforts and decisive action by people across our state, Maine has flattened the COVID-19 curve better than nearly every other state in the nation. In fact, Maine’s pandemic response, adjusted for population, includes some of the lowest numbers of hospitalizations, new case numbers, and deaths.

Our collective embrace of our new normal – safe and sensible ways of doing business, shopping, traveling and recreating to keep Maine healthy – has allowed Maine’s economy to reopen throughout the spring and summer months.

Starting on May 1, 2020, the Restarting Maine’s Economy plan established four gradual and flexible stages of reopening, which were designed in concert with public health experts and with input from industry representatives. This approach, which was adjusted when public health circumstances necessitated it, allowed Maine businesses to safely stay open or reopen by following reasonable, practical guidelines to ensure the safety of employees and customers.

The plan’s fourth and final planned stage begins Oct. 13, 2020, with timeframes identified for all Maine businesses to open and operate with appropriate safety modifications as outlined by the COVID-19 Prevention Checklists from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

Public health remains the foremost factor guiding the Administration’s decision-making in its efforts against COVID-19. As the plan enters Stage 4, the Administration may consider and implement further protective protocols, along with broader additional health and safety measures, in order to safeguard the health of Maine people.

Guiding Principles

The guiding principles for this approach include:

  1. Protecting Public Health: The State will continue to use epidemiological data, such as case trends and hospitalization rates, to inform decisions about the appropriate time to lift restrictions.

  2. Maintaining Health Care Readiness: Maine must be able to respond to any surge of COVID-19. To that end, the State will continue to work closely with hospitals and health systems to assess system capacity, including available hospital beds, ICU beds and ventilators, and to procure and distribute personal protective equipment to hospitals, nursing facilities, emergency services, and other frontline responders.

  3. Building Reliable and Accessible Testing: Testing and disease surveillance, including contact tracing, are key foundations for opening the economy. While the widespread availability of rapid testing remains a challenge,the State is actively expanding testing to make it more accessible to Maine people.

  4. Prioritizing Public-Private Collaboration: Close collaboration among businesses, employees, government, and the public to develop, implement, oversee, and accept guidelines and safe practices is central to Maine’s continued success in controlling COVID-19.

Health Metrics

For the Restarting Maine’s Economy plan, Maine CDC epidemiological data, such as case trends and hospitalization rates, as well as health care readiness and capacity, informed decisions on proceeding through the stages.

The Maine CDC tracks three primary metrics to inform this evaluation:

  1. a downward trajectory of influenza-like illnesses and COVID-like syndromic cases; 
  2. a downward trajectory of documented cases and newly hospitalized patients; and 
  3. the capacity of Maine’s hospital systems to treat all patients without crisis care and the ability of the state to engage in a robust testing program. 

The Administration will continue to evaluate standards outlined in the Governor’s vision statement, such as testing capacity and contact tracing, to inform its response to the pandemic. If the COVID-19 situation worsens in Maine for any reason, the state will move quickly to re-institute safety protocols, or return to an earlier stage of the plan.

Maintaining Safety Precautions

In order to remain open, various sectors of Maine’s economy must implement practical, reasonable, evidence-informed safety protocols and modifications that protect the health and safety of employees and customers.

These accommodations are outlined in COVID-19 Prevention Checklists, which identify best practices for businesses specific to their operations, as well as general best practices related to physical distancing, hygiene, personal protection, and maintenance of clean workplaces, among others.

The checklists, which differ sector to sector, are the product of collaborative process between DECD and the private sector, which included rigorous review from government officials, health experts, and industry representatives. Health providers in Maine follow U.S. CDC and professional association guidelines.

These checklists will identify best practices for the business specific to its operations as well as general best practices related to physical distancing, hygiene, personal protection, and maintenance of clean workplaces, among others.

In order to promote checklist compliance and protect public health, consumers may make a report about businesses or organizations operating in violation of checklist requirements and endangering public health through this online portal.

Restarting Maine’s Economy, Stage 4

Stage 4 of the Restarting Maine’s Economy plan began Tuesday, October 13, 2020. (Click here to see the prior stages of the plan).

In response to increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in Maine and the nation, Stage 4 was updated 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.