Governor Mills: Don’t let down your guard now.

June 26, 2020

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and our gradual reopening process, the Maine CDC has been monitoring epidemiological data, like case trends and hospitalization rates as well as health care readiness and capacity, to inform all of our decisions on lifting restrictions and stimulating our economy.

We look at these metrics every day. We look at them in their totality and we look at them in context, as opposed to looking at daily changes of one metric itself to inform our decisions.

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

Adjusted for population now, as of June 25, Maine now ranks 7th lowest in the nation in positive cases; we are 9th lowest in the nation in terms of deaths from COVID-19; we are 6th lowest in terms of patients that are ever-hospitalized out of the 36 states reporting; and 5th highest in the percentage of people who have recovered, out of the 42 states reporting.

In light of those data and those trends, we are moving ahead with Stage 3 of our Restarting Maine’s Economy Plan.  Starting July 1st, this coming week,  spas and skin care establishments; outdoor amusements, like amusement parks and water parks; indoor amusements, such as bowling alleys, arcades, movie theaters and performing arts venues may reopen if they wish, with health and safety protocols in place. The prohibition on gatherings of more than 50 people remains in place for all activities for public health reasons.

My Administration has also approved the first round of grants to municipalities under the Keep Maine Healthy Plan. Using federal Coronavirus Relief Funding from the CARES Act, these grants will help towns and cities implement their own COVID-19 prevention, education and protection plans to keep residents and staff and visitors healthy and safe.

For example, with this funding we’ll reimburse some municipalities for the purchase of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer; it will allow some towns to place signs on side-walks to encourage people to maintain six feet distance from each other; or we’ll fund a local health officer in some towns to ensure that local businesses conform to public health best practices.

As the economy gradually restarts, and as the hospitality industry looks to hire people, I also want to remind folks too that people who are on unemployment can go back to work part time and take a part time job and not lose unemployment benefits in their entirety. And anyone who is receiving at least $1 in unemployment and you go back to work part time, you’ll also keep the additional $600 a week federal unemployment benefit through July 25th. Pretty good deal.

So these new grants to our towns and cities, along with the July 1st reopenings, are positive steps for Maine and for our economy, but boy Maine people and visitors and businesses have to keep remaining vigilant too.

The very high increase and in some instances record high increases in the number of COVID-19 cases in other states – that’s a cautionary tale for Maine as we continue our reopening and as we monitor the prevalence of the virus here, and work towards economic recovery.

Boy nothing would be more devastating to our economy than to see a significant surge in this virus, the virus that sickens and kills more people and jeopardizes our health care capacity.

It is possible, if not likely even, that the changes we are making will result in an uptick in cases so we will be keeping a close eye on all the epidemiological data as we have been doing from the very start.

We’ll look at the data in our state, and the data in our neighboring states, and states like New York and Connecticut where many people come from to visit Maine in the summer.

And if a review of the data about Maine finds evidence of an increase in COVID-19 or a risk to the capacity of our health care system, we will have to move quickly to protect Maine people.

But the most effective way to make sure that we do not have to reestablish restrictions and we can keep our economy going is by taking care of ourselves and each other.

So, I ask you as your Governor– please – if you own or work at a public-facing business, please strictly adhere to all health and safety protocols. Don’t let down your guard now. Protecting your customers and your staff protects your business as well.

I ask all Maine people, remember to wash your hands frequently, maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others no matter where you are, stay home when you can, especially if you are older or have an underlying health condition, and wear a face covering when you are out in public when it is hard to maintain six feet of distance between you and others. Please do that.

Studies now show that those face coverings really work.

If we protect ourselves and protect one another by taking these steps, we can continue to reopen our economy in a safe way, and we can limit the spread of this dangerous virus as we welcome the tourist season in Maine.

It is up to every one of us.

This is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening and stay safe.