Maine to open up its economy in advance of summer tourism
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine is increasing capacity for indoor and outdoor gatherings and easing travel restrictions on other New England states in anticipation of the summer tourism season.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said Friday the state will raise indoor capacity limits to 50% on March 26 and 75% on May 24. Outdoor gatherings will increase to 75% on March 26 and 100% on May 24, she said.
The state had been using a harder cap to try to control the spread of coronavirus. The cap allowed 50 people indoors, 100 people outdoors or 5 people per 1,000 square feet.
Mills said the state is also adding Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island to its list of states whose visitors do not need to quarantine or produce a negative coronavirus test upon arriving in Maine. The list previously included Vermont and New Hampshire.
She said the moves reflect the state’s success in controlling the spread of coronavirus, and were made in anticipation of spring and summer visitors from out of state.
“We’re reopening Maine. Maine is open. You’re welcome to come here and enjoy our beaches and mountains in the coming months,” Mills said.
Mills said the capacity rules can be made more strict if the state’s public health metrics require it. She added that common-sense public health protocols, such as mask wearing and hand washing, remain in effect in the state.
In other pandemic news in Maine:
The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 1.68%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 1.89% on Feb. 18 to 1.68% on March 4.
Public health authorities in Maine have said the virus has sickened more than 45,000 people and killed more than 700 people in the state.
State officials have said about 10% of the state’s residents have completed the vaccination series for coronavirus. The University of Maine System, one of the major employers in the state, said it informed its employees Friday that they are eligible for two hours of paid leave time to get their dose of the vaccine.
New claims for state unemployment insurance in Maine have dipped below 2,000 for the first time in months.
The Maine Department of Labor recorded about 1,700 initial claims for state unemployment insurance for the week that ended Feb. 27. The number hadn’t been below 2,000 since November.
The labor department said it’s also continuing to investigate unemployment imposter fraud. The department said it cancelled more than 800 initial claims for the week that ended Feb. 27.
The department said it’s also beefing up its security measures to protect beneficiaries from fraudulent email “phishing” scams.
The unemployment rate for December, the most recent month for which statistics are available, was 5%. That’s less than half what the rate was in April 2020, but nearly twice the December 2019 rate.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland said all Catholic churches in the state will allow 50% capacity for daily and weekend masses for the week that begins with Palm Sunday on March 28. Bishop Robert Deeley said “expanding our capacity for in-person worship at the start of Holy Week will bring great joy to many parishioners who have been unable to attend Mass as they wish due to attendance restrictions.”