Governor Mills issues order mandating 14 day closure of non-essential businesses

Bay County health officials say six people have been tested for the coronavirus locally. Of...
Bay County health officials say six people have been tested for the coronavirus locally. Of those six tested, four results have come back negative; two test results are still pending. (MGN)(WJHG)
Published: Mar. 24, 2020 at 2:40 PM EDT
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While the number of coronavirus cases has risen to 118 across the state, the Governor issued an order Tuesday afternoon that includes heavier restrictions on Maine businesses and groups as a means to further urge social distancing to prevent the spread of the pandemic illness.

Governor Mills has urged people to heed the recommendation that social gatherings need to be limited.

Effective March 25 at 12:01am, the Governor has mandated that "all non-essential businesses close their physical locations that are public facing, meaning those that allow customer, vendor, or other in-person contact." Additionally, Governor Mills has ordered the closure of non-essential businesses that require more than ten people to be in a space where physical distancing is not practical.

This mandated closure of business will remain in place for a period of fourteen days, until April 8.

Businesses who feel they should be considered essential under the mandate can submit for consideration by visiting

Mills stopped short of issuing a shelter-in-place order.

"We're seeing how they work in other states where there's much more congestion to begin with," said Mills. "There are public health risks to people staying in place as well as public health risks to people not staying in place. Weighing those and it's a balancing act day to day."

"Right now I want people to enjoy life as much as possible within the extraordinary circumstances that we're dealing with," she continued.

Mills said state government remains open but most work is being done remotely.

Mills also renewed a previous executive order that prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people and dine-in service at bars and restaurants until April 8 at 12:00 a.m.

According to the Maine CDC, 15 people remain hospitalized, while 7 have fully recovered and have been released from isolation.

Ten of Maine's sixteen counties now have cases of coronavirus. CDC Director Nirvah Shah says that now is the time to take action because the number of known cases are only "tip of the iceberg." Shah says that preventive public health action is critical. He further stated that the absence of a reported case in a county does not mean the virus is not present in that county.

The Maine CDC has received 3,185 requests for consultation from healthcare providers around the state

Dr. Shah says there is a backlog of reporting results totaling 1,300 tests. He calls that "unacceptable" and says they're working to fix that.

The state is working to reduce this backlog and bring in extra help and technology.

A total of 3,014 negative tests were documented as of Tuesday morning.

Mills was asked about the alleged influx of out-of-staters coming to Maine to escape the coronavirus. She said that she can't close the borders, but urged folks to stay where they are."

"Those people who may be subject to orders in other states that require them to stay in place," said Mills. "If they believe they can escape that by coming here. If they believe they can escape the virus by coming here...they are wrong. They cannot escape it because it is here. It is everywhere."

Full statement from Governor Mills:

"Augusta, MAINE – Under the authority granted to her during a State of Civil Emergency, Governor Janet Mills today issued an Executive Order mandating that all non-essential businesses and operations in Maine close their physical locations that are public facing, meaning those that allow customer, vendor or other in-person contact. The Order also closes non-essential business sites that require more than ten workers to convene in a space where physical distancing is not possible. Non-essential businesses and operations may continue activities that do not involve these types of in-person contact and convenings, and should facilitate the maximum number of employees working remotely.

The Order is effective tomorrow, March 25, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and extends for a period of 14 days through April 8, 2020 at 12:00 a.m.

It solidifies as a mandate her previous recommendation to close non-essential business sites.

Governor Mills also strongly urged all large, essential, public-facing businesses to immediately employ strategies to reduce congestion in their stores, including limiting the number of customers in the store at any one time and enhancing curbside pick-up and delivery services. These measures, aimed specifically at high-traffic retail stores in Maine that provide essential goods and services, seek to better protect both customers and employees from the threat of COVID-19.

“Today, I am taking further action to mitigate the spread of the virus, to protect the health of our loved ones and fellow citizens, and to safeguard the capacity of our health care system,” said Governor Mills. “I recognize these decisions will create significant difficulties for people and businesses across our state, but we are confronting an unprecedented challenge that is threatening the health and safety of our people.”

“Maine people should live their lives as if COVID-19 is in their community,” said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Physical distancing in every part of Maine is crucial to limit potential spread of the virus. You can be there for loved ones without being in the same place.”

Governor Mills continues to strongly urge all Maine people to practice physical distancing. She particularly urged Maine residents who are considered at higher risk from COVID-19, such as older Mainers and those with underlying health conditions, to limit physical interactions with other people as much as possible.

Non-essential businesses and operations subject to the Governor’s Executive Order include, but are not limited to, shopping malls, fitness and exercise gyms, spas, barber shops, hair salons, tattoo and piercing parlors, massage facilities, nail technicians, cosmetologists and estheticians, electrolysis services, laser hair removal services, and similar personal care and treatment facilities and services.

The Executive Order excludes businesses that provide essential services including, but not limited to: food processing, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, construction, trash collection, grocery and household goods (including convenience stores), home repair and hardware and auto repair, pharmacy and other medical facilities, biomedical, behavioral health and health care providers, child care, post offices and shipping outlets, insurance, banks, gas stations, laundromats, veterinary clinics and animal feed and supply stores, shipping stores, public transportation, and hotel and commercial lodging.

State government remains open, but offices have significantly moved to telework and dispatch from home, limited client engagement, and have required physical distancing within office buildings. The Department of Administrative and Financial Services estimates that 70 percent of state government employees are working remotely. The Governor urges Maine people to avail themselves of the state’s online services and resources.

For those essential businesses that remain open, Governor Mills strongly urged them to implement physical distancing measures. She specifically urged high-traffic retail stores in Maine that provide essential goods and services to immediately employ strategies to reduce congestion in their stores, including:

 For stores with a physical retail space of more than 5,000 feet, limiting customers to no more than 100 at any one time;

 Enhancing their curbside pick-up and delivery services;

 Staggering their hours for shoppers of a certain age;

 Closing fitting rooms;

 Cautioning customers against handling merchandise they are not purchasing;

 Marking six-foot measurements by the cashier stations and reminding customers to remain six feet apart while in store;

 Staggering break times for employees and require frequent hand-washing;

 Frequently sanitizing high-touch areas, such as shopping carts.

These measures come as Governor Mills seeks to strengthen physical distancing measures in Maine to better protect both customers and employees from the threat of COVID-19. Physical distancing is considered one of the most effective methods to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

If the function of your business is not listed, but you believe that it is essential, you may request designation as an essential business at

Questions may also be directed to

To align with today’s Executive Order, Governor Mills today also renewed her previous Executive Order prohibiting gatherings of more than ten people and the closure of dine-in service at restaurants and bars in Maine to extend its timeframe to April 8, 2020 at 12:00 a.m. Today’s Executive Order does not modify the previous Executive Order in any other manner.

Governor Mills is taking into consideration all COVID-19 response options, including a stay-at-home restriction. She is consulting with the Maine CDC, other clinicians and health system leaders, other states that have invoked this option, and other members of her Coronavirus Response Team. Those discussions are ongoing, and include, but are not limited to the public health efficacy of such orders compared to existing measures, Maine-specific factors, and their potential secondary health and economic implications. The Governor will make recommendations based upon their advice and what she deems is in the best interest of the health and safety of Maine people.

The Governor has taken steps to protect Maine workers and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Upon Governor Mills’ request, the Small Business Administration (SBA) declared that Maine businesses are now eligible to apply for economic support loans to help them overcome any temporary loss of revenue due to COVID-19. Additionally, the emergency omnibus package she signed temporarily revises eligibility for unemployment insurance to extend it to individuals whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19. It also temporarily waives the one week waiting period for benefits so that workers may obtain benefits faster and ensures that claims for UI will not affect an employer’s experience rating. It also establishes a consumer loan guarantee program through FAME, in partnership with financial institutions, to provide low- or no- interest loans for eligible people in Maine.

These new steps from the Governor build on the work done by the Mills Administration to respond to COVID-19, including:

 Convening a Coronavirus Response Team, led by Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah and comprised of key individuals in the Mills Administration, to coordinate State government’s response across departments and local agencies and health authorities;

 Signing a proclamation of civil emergency to bring the State of Maine to highest alert and allowing her to deploy all available state resources to protect the health and safety of Maine people and to take every action she reasonably deems necessary to help respond to and protect against the spread of COVID-19 in Maine. The proclamation also eased Maine’s access to critical federal aid to boost response efforts.

 Signing into law a $73 million supplemental budget proposal that protects the health and well-being of Maine people as the State responds to COVID-19;

 Signing into law a package of emergency measures granting her access to at least $11 million in State funding to respond to COVID-19, expanding authorities of State and local officials to allow them greater flexibility to respond to the virus, and provide support to Maine workers impacted by the virus.

 Mandating that all restaurants and bars statewide close to dine-in customers until midnight, March 31, 2020 and prohibiting all gatherings of more than 10 people until further notice.

 Distributing personal protective equipment (PPE) to first responders and health care professionals across Maine as it becomes available and pressing the Federal government to provide more PPE and testing supplies to the State of Maine

 Issuing a Declaration of Abnormal Market Disruption, drafted in close consultation with Attorney General Aaron M. Frey, to prohibit price gouging of certain necessities;

 Declaring a health insurance emergency to require health insurance carriers providing health care coverage in Maine’s commercial market to cover costs related to coronavirus testing and increase access to care.

 Directing the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to issue emergency rules to ensure MaineCare does not charge copays for office visits and prescription drugs that may be needed for COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment, and to allow for a prescription refill of up to 90 days so people have to make fewer visits to pharmacies.

 Recommending ending classroom instruction in all public schools as soon as reasonably practical

 Applying for and receiving a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools the ability to provide meals offsite to students, if the school or community currently has, or qualifies for, a USDA Summer Food Service Program.

 Recommending hospital systems and health care providers across Maine postpone non-urgent medical procedures, elective surgeries, and appointments until further notice.

 Recommending all long-term care providers prohibit all visitors and non-essential health care personnel; except for certain compassionate care situations such as an end of life situation, until further notice.

 Pressing President Trump to marshal the resources of the federal government to support Maine’s vital fishing and seafood industries.

 Convening a call with Maine’s Congressional delegation to discuss the State’s response to COVID-19 and the Congressional delegation’s ongoing work to support those efforts.

 Temporarily suspending non-essential, out-of-state travel for all State employees and reviewing leave policies and telecommuting options.

 Launching a 211 option for Mainers to get answers to questions about COVID-19 at any time. This service is available by dialing 211 (or 1-866-811-5695), texting your ZIP code to 898-211, or emailing

For more information on Maine’s response to COVID-19 and updated testing results, visit the Maine CDC website.

The best thing that Maine people can do to protect their health is to practice physical distancing and take the same preventive measures that avoid catching a cold: Wash your hands often for 20 seconds. Cover coughs and sneezes. Stay home if you are sick. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, shortness of breath, and lower respiratory distress. Call ahead to a health care professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness. Health care providers will make the initial determination on whether COVID-19 testing is necessary."