Waldo County businesses react to CDC’s new guidance on masking
BELFAST, Maine (WABI) - Coronavirus cases continue to rise in Maine.
The Maine CDC reported on Thursday that there have been more than 70,000 positive cases of the virus and 899 deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic.
More than 60% of Mainers are fully vaccinated against the virus, but now health officials say residents of counties with “high” or “substantial” COVID-19 transmission should return to wearing masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.
“We’re optimistic that coupling our ongoing intense vaccination effort with these extra layers of public health mitigation will prevent us from having to go back to where we were earlier in the pandemic,” Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner, Jeanne Lambrew, told reporters during Wednesday’s Maine CDC briefing.
“We’ve shown throughout the pandemic that Maine people will make the right choice. I don’t have any reason to think that that’s changed,” said Dr. Nirav Shah.
The Delta Variant of COVID-19 continues to spread across the country.
On Wednesday, the Mills administration announced the state will follow the U.S. CDC’s updated face covering guidance.
As of Thursday afternoon, Waldo County was the only county in Maine with “substantial” community transmission, and residents should return to wearing masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Some Belfast businesses were following the new recommendations Thursday.
“I think businesses are concerned for their customers and want to be make sure they’re doing what they can to make sure people are safe,” said Zach Schmesser, Executive Director of Our Town Belfast.
Their goal is to help grow and sustain Belfast’s historic downtown.
After Wednesday’s announcement, he fielded a few calls from local business owners with questions about the new recommendations.
“I’m not a public health expert, but I would have to believe these recommendations are based on preventing kind of a backslide or preventing it from getting worse,” Schmesser said.
“We’ve not been seeing a lot of masks lately, but I would say today, it was noticeable that there was definitely more people wearing masks,” said Paul Meola of Traci’s Diner on Main Street in Belfast.
Meola tells TV5 he called Schmesser Wednesday evening after hearing the news.
As of now, the diner is not recommending face coverings.
“We’ve struggled recently to try and set the right example in our own establishment, and we’re a little local diner, but we’re also a meeting place for the community, and we feel like we want to get a grasp on what’s going on and try to be doing the right thing,” said Meola.
The Belfast Co-op is located in the heart of downtown Belfast, too.
The store’s mask requirement ended on June 30th.
Right now, shoppers and workers are still encouraged to wear masks and social distance while in the store.
We spoke with the store’s marketing manager who tells us they are aware of the new recommendation from the CDC but have no plans to change their recommendations at this time.
Meola says he along with many other residents are doing their best to keep one another safe but are hopeful the mask mandates do not return.
“We’re worried about each other. We’re concerned about the pandemic,” he said. “We’re concerned about our own health and our customers, and we’re also very concerned because this is a high tourist area, and it’s not usual to see people from all over the United States or other parts of the world.”
The Maine CDC website has been updated to indicate the most current federal recommendations from the U.S. CDC.
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