The past few months have been a very trying time. Not only have many suffered or even passed away from severe cases of COVID-19, but we’ve also experienced extreme economic hardship as a result of the necessary measures taken to reduce the spread of the virus.
Moving forward from here is a challenge for our state and our country. If we allow the virus to spread unchecked, many more will suffer or die. At the same time, not allowing businesses to open up, or people to visit the state, could have devastating impacts on our economy, especially as we move into the summer, when many of our tourism-based businesses make their money.
Last week, Gov. Janet Mills extended Maine’s “Stay at Home” order for another month, and released a plan to begin reopening our economy. The plan establishes four gradual stages of reopening, and Stage 1 began on Friday, May 1. Each of the first three stages include guidelines and rules to protect public health, while allowing certain businesses and other activities to resume in a limited fashion. These three stages are tentatively set to run through the summer. The fourth stage envisions a total reopening of the economy.
The stages focus on the ability of businesses to operate or an activity to occur in a manner that protects public health and safety. Businesses will be subject to certain requirements specific to their industry, as determined by the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) in collaboration with the Maine CDC and industry groups. There are some general requirements that all reopening businesses must meet. These include accommodating employees at risk of COVID-19 and taking steps to protect employees from contracting COVID-19; taking certain steps when an employee exhibits symptom; and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
Unfortunately, the 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state visitors would remain in place for Stages 2 and 3, meaning businesses would only be open to Maine residents and those who complete a 14-day quarantine upon their arrival into Maine. This requirement is of great concern to me, primarily because of the way it would affect many of our tourist businesses, including summer camp rentals and campground businesses. Especially in those cases, it doesn’t make a lot of sense from a practical point of view. We need to remember that tourism businesses operate on a thin margin and rely heavily on our out-of-state friends to make for a successful season. They cannot rely on locals and seasonal residents alone for their revenue this summer and fall. I’ve expressed my concerns with the administration regarding the impractical nature of this requirement and hopefully there will be some changes in the very near future.
We must place a high priority on safety and economic survival. I realize this is a delicate balance, but we must work hard to make it happen. Knowing that thousands of workers and business owners in our communities depend on the tourism industry, we need to find a way forward that allows seasonal businesses to cater to folks visiting Maine from away, with appropriate health and safety protections, and make sure that they and their workers get the support they need.
If you would like to read more about the plan, including a tentative timeline for reopening, the health and safety protocols for businesses, and more, visit www.maine.gov/covid19/restartingmaine. You may also submit questions or comments by emailing email@example.com. It is my understanding that the administration is trying to be flexible and accommodating where they can, and feedback from businesses and citizens alike is helpful for them.
Of course, you may also reach out to me with your questions and concerns, by calling my office at (207) 287-1515 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to do what I can to help.