Governor Mills: Wearing a face covering, staying six feet apart, avoiding large gatherings, and washing our hands — all of that is key to keeping Maine open and keeping Maine safe and healthy.

You know, back in the spring, I issued a Stay Healthy at Home Order that required Maine people to stay home as much as possible to mitigate the spread of the horrible virus, the COVID-19 virus.

Hello this is Janet Mills, governor of the great State of Maine.

That was an extremely difficult decision, one of many now. Nobody runs for office thinking sometime they’ll have to shut down their state and tell businesses to close their doors. Like all Maine people, I want our state to reopen as quickly as it is safe to do so.

That’s why a few months ago we initiated our Plan to Restart Maine’s Economy.

Today, Maine adjusted for population, ranks 2nd lowest in the nation in terms of positive COVID cases; 4th lowest in terms of deaths; lowest in terms of patients ever-hospitalized (out of the 36 states reporting); and we’re doing so well in so many metrics.

We have to balance public health with economic health every step of the way, although it has been kind of painful and difficult for many businesses.

Now as winter approaches, we have to continue this balancing act and ensure that some businesses that were allowed to operate outside in the summer months are able to continue operating as the weather gets colder.

So I announced this week that beginning Tuesday, October 13th, Maine will move into Stage 4 of the Plan to Restart Maine’s Economy.

Businesses and organizations that serve people through seated activities – such as indoor dining, religious gatherings, and movie theaters – will be allowed to operate at 50 percent of their capacity, up to a maximum of 100 people.

We consulted with the chambers of commerce, and the restaurant industry and the visitors bureaus. What we heard repeatedly is they’d like to operate at 50 percent capacity, so we’ve accommodated that, but put it at a maximum of 100 people.

We’ve also updated the checklists for these businesses and we’re posting them on the DECD website.

For non-seated indoor activities, like physical activities in gyms, the capacity limit remains at 50 and the outdoor gathering limit also remains at 100.

Stage 4 also establishes the reopening date for indoor services for bars, tasting rooms, and distilleries as Monday, November 2nd. They have to commit to abiding by the newly-posted checklist for seated food and drink service.

You know back in the summer I also issued an Executive Order that required Maine’s coastal counties and more populous cities – the businesses in those places — to enforce our statewide face covering mandate.

Now we have expanded that statewide so all of the businesses under that Executive Order are required to post a sign on their business and to require customers and employees to wear a mask when facing the public.

I also broadened the Order to make clear that places, such as private schools and local government buildings, also have to wear masks. Face coverings have been proven to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 and they may also reduce the spread of the flu now that we’re all out getting our flu shots. Think about that.

Businesses that violate the Executive Orders are subject to enforcement, including fines and potential loss of license. We’ve already had in one instance a $20,000 fine and more than two dozen imminent health hazard warnings to organizations that have not abided by these measures.

These measures are to protect you, your families, the customers, clients and people in those businesses and their employees — to protect everybody.

And mind you, just because a business may open doesn’t mean you have to go there or that you should go there. We’re trying to do that balancing act and keep people as safe as possible. If you have underlying conditions, don’t take risks. You know if you’re a vulnerable person, don’t take risks, stay safe.

We think that this expanded capacity though, along with the continued health and safety precautions, is a good step forward in balancing public health and economic health and fairly consistent with what other New England states are doing too.

We keep evaluating these things and while we are making these adjustments, don’t be lured into a false sense of security. We’re doing pretty well as a state compared to other states, but this virus is still very much among us.

Wearing a face covering, staying six feet apart, avoiding large gatherings, and washing our hands — all of that is key to keeping Maine open and keeping Maine safe and healthy.

We all worked together this spring, summer and fall to ensure that we could leave our homes safely and get back to something of what life used to be like, with many adjustments. This fall and winter let us adapt again to keep it that way.

Thank you and please stay safe.