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Maine governor issues new mask order as virus cases spike

November 5, 2020 GMT

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Citing an alarming surge in coronavirus cases, Maine’s governor issued an executive order Thursday requiring people to wear face coverings in public settings — and backed it up with potential fines.

Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, beefed up an earlier executive order that required mask use when it’s difficult to maintain social distance. Owners and operators of public places must also post signs notifying entrants they can be denied entry for noncompliance to the mask rule, the order stated.

Mills issued the order the day state health authorities announced a record of 183 new coronavirus cases in a single day. Public health officials in Maine have been advising caution about a growing wave of cases in the state, which had largely contained the virus through the summer.

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“Protect your family. Protect a health care worker. Protect the elderly. Wear your face covering. Save lives. It is that simple,” Mills said.

The rule change went into effect immediately and is set to stand until repealed or amended. Violations of an executive order are punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, a spokesperson for the governor’s office said. People who are warned about the mask requirement and enter an establishment anyway can be refused service or charged with trespassing, the spokesperson said.

Maine Republican Party Chair Demi Kouzounas said the new rules were “beyond excessive” and that Maine residents “should be treated like the intelligent, informed adults that they are.”

In other news related to the pandemic in Maine:

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NEW CASES

New cases of the coronavirus in the state are continuing to surge. That trend began in October.

An additional 183 coronavirus cases have been reported in the state, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. The state reported that the number of deaths held at 150.

The new cases brought the total of coronavirus cases reported in Maine to over 7,200.

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MORE JOBLESS CLAIMS

Unemployment claims are ticking up in Maine just as the state deals with the surge in cases of the coronavirus.

Mainers filing new unemployment claims increased to about 2,500 last week from 1,800 the prior week, the Maine Department of Labor reported Thursday. That number includes 1,700 claims for state unemployment insurance.

The number of continuing claims for state and federal unemployment benefits was 44,000, down slightly from the previous week, the Portland Press Herald reported. The state’s unemployment rate was 6.1% in September, down from more than 10% in April.