Outdoor graduations encouraged; new cases down in Maine
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said outdoor graduation ceremonies can be safely held in the state this year.
Common sense should guide the events at high schools and colleges, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said. Masks should be worn at events that will pack hundreds of students into a close setting, he said.
“They might be outdoors this summer. That’s a good thing and we encourage that,” Shah said during a radio appearance Wednesday on Maine Public. “When everyone disperses and has spread out, that’s a situation where you might not need a mask.”
Shah’s statement came a day after the state and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released relaxed guidance about the need to wear masks outdoors. He also said Thursday that event organizers should encourage 6 feet of space between attendees.
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted Maine’s graduation season last year. The University of Maine System, for example, canceled in-person graduation ceremonies for its universities.
In other pandemic news in Maine:
The number of new daily cases of coronavirus has dipped in Maine after trending upward in recent weeks.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 385.29 new cases per day on April 13 to 318.00 new cases per day on April 27.
The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 1.43 deaths per day on April 13 to 1.43 deaths per day on April 27.
The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.
The trends are encouraging, but the state is “not out of it yet,” Shah said. Androscoggin County, which has a higher positivity rate than Maine as a whole, remains an area of concern for the state, he said.
“As a state, we’re overall heading in a better direction than two weeks ago,” Shah said.
The Maine CDC reported on Thursday that more than 60,000 people in the state have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic. The agency said 782 people have died.
Shah said the state wants two-thirds of its eligible population fully vaccinated by Memorial Day. About 45% of the eligible population had had its final dose by Thursday.
Outdoors retailer L.L. Bean is ready to resume around-the-clock sales at its flagship store on Main Street in Freeport.
The main store and Hunt & Fish Store will return to 24-hour operations on May 3, while the Home store and Bike, Boat & Ski will be extending their hours, officials said.
All retail stores were closed for a time at the start of the pandemic, and have been operating on reduced hours since reopening.
Returning to 24-hour operations marks an important milestone for the company during the pandemic, restoring a tradition that dates to 1951, said Shawn Gorman, company chairman.
CRUISE SHIPS RETURN
The Maine Office of Tourism said Thursday that small, domestic cruise ship visitation can return to the state in late May.
The office said a pair of ships, the Independence and the American Constitution, will begin operations in Maine in late May and early June. They will operate under a mandate that all passengers be fully vaccinated, the office said.
The tourism office said “the future of the 2021 season remains unclear for cruise ships larger than the 250-person threshold” set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.