Gov. Janet Mills outlined Tuesday a multi-step plan to re-open businesses which continues a prohibition on mass gatherings and will require people to wear adequate face coverings when they are in public places where physical distancing is not possible.

And the Democratic governor said mass gatherings that include outdoor festivals will likely not be able to held during this summer.

"Festivals and parades, we all love them, but they bring large numbers of people together and pose a health risk," Gov. Mills said.

North Atlantic Blues Festival founder and organizer Paul Benjamin announced Tuesday, April 28 that the 2020 event has been canceled out of concern about the threat from COVID-19.

No announcement from other festivals have been made.

The Lobster Festival is scheduled for July 29 through Aug. 2; and the Maine Boat and Home Show is scheduled for Aug. 7 through Aug. 9. In addition, the Thomaston Fourth of July, Union Fair, and town celebrations such as Friendship Day will not be allowed unless the mass gathering ban is lifted. The ban limits gatherings to no more than 50 people.

The new four-stage plan announced by the governor requires that businesses meet a safety checklist and get approval from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development before they can re-open. The checklists will be available online at the department's website.

She said the stages focus not on essential versus non-essential designations like those used to originally limit business operations and activities, but on the ability of a business to operate or an activity to occur in a manner that protects public health and safety.

The following is the statement from the governor's website.

"The staged plan builds on the Governor’s current Executive Orders, which already allows grocery stores, pharmacies, financial institutions, home repair services, child care agencies, and car repair services, among others, to operate, and then allows for the safe reopening of those businesses not currently operating. The upcoming four stages as contemplated by the Governor’s plan are:

Stage 1 (May): Beginning May 1, Stage 1 continues the prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people, the quarantine of all people entering or returning to Maine for a period of 14 days, and the special precautions for older Mainers and others at risk for COVID-19. It calls for people who are able to work from home to continue to do so, including State employees.

It will also newly require that Maine people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain, and continue strict requirements for long-term care facilities. Guidance on cloth face coverings will be issued in the coming days.

Stage 1 also allows for the limited expansion of certain business, religious, and quality of life activities, with appropriate safety precautions. These include:

  • Health care from Maine-licensed providers, with recommendations that they prioritize care for patients with time-sensitive conditions; assure the safety of patients, staff, and communities; manage the use of essential resources such as personal protective equipment and testing supplies; and pace re-opening services to the level of community COVID-19 activity, maintaining capacity in our hospitals for potential outbreaks
  • Personal services: Barber shops, hair salons, and pet grooming
  • Limited drive-in, stay-in-your-vehicle religious services
  • Drive-in movie theaters
  • Outdoor recreation: guided outdoor activities (hunting & fishing) and restricted use of golf and disc golf courses
  • State parks, state-owned public land trails, and historic sites; although certain coastal state parks will remain closed
  • Auto dealerships and car washes

Stage 2 (June): Tentatively beginning June 1, Stage 2 contemplates revising the limitation on gatherings from less than 10 people to less than 50 people. It also calls for people who can work from home to continue to do so but allows for employees in certain fields to begin to reenter the office as needed, including State employees. It maintains the 14-day quarantine for all people entering or returning to Maine and the special precautions for older Mainers and others at risk of COVID-19. With appropriate safety precautions, Stage 2 would allow for some degree of opening with reservations, capacity limits, and other measures for:

  • Restaurants
  • Fitness and exercise centers and nail technicians
  • Retail stores for broader in-store shopping
  • Lodging and campgrounds for Maine residents and those who have met the 14-day quarantine requirement
  • Day camps for Maine children and those who have met the 14-day quarantine requirement
  • Coastal State parks

Stage 3 (July & August): Tentatively beginning July 1, Stage 3 contemplates maintaining the prohibition on gatherings of more than 50 people and other Stage 1 and Stage 2 restrictions, including the 14-day quarantine on people entering Maine. With appropriate safety precautions, Stage 3 would allow for some degree of opening for:

  • Lodging, such as hotels, campgrounds, summer camps, or RV parks for Maine residents and visitors. The Administration is developing guidelines to assist them in safely reopening, and reservations should not be taken until those guidelines are issued.
  • Outdoor recreation such as charter boats and boat excursions
  • Bars
  • Personal services such as spas, tattoo and piercing parlors, and massage facilities, among others

Stage 4 (Timeline Undetermined): Stage 4 contemplates lifting restrictions and allowing all businesses and activities to resume with appropriate safety precautions.

The stages outlined above are advanced as a framework for planning. Innovations or expanded testing and other capacity could accelerate this pace, as could a determination that certain parts of Maine, such as some rural areas, may be able to ease restrictions safely. At the same time, a surge in COVID-19 in parts or all of Maine could result in significant adjustments to this plan and a return to more restrictions.

The Mills Administration does not currently anticipate that it will be safe to accept cruise or commercial passenger ships with more than 50 people this summer. The Administration will review this assessment in September 2020.

This prohibition excludes passenger ferries working between Maine ports. Additionally, the Administration is currently working with stakeholders to develop plans for a safe return to school in the fall.

Establishing Safety Precautions: In order to reopen, various sectors of Maine’s economy will be required to work with the Department of Economic and Community Development to implement practical, reasonable, evidence-informed safety protocols and modifications that protect the health and safety of employees and customers. These accommodations may be as simple as closing break rooms, providing flexible working hours, employee training, and installing plexiglass shields, or as complex as adjusting a business’ sales process and reducing occupancy to ensure employee and customer safety.

This collaboration between DECD and the private sector will result in what will be known as a COVID-19 Prevention Checklists. These checklists will identify best practices for the business specific to its operations as well as general best practices related to physical distancing, hygiene, personal protection, and maintenance of clean workplaces, among others. The checklists, which will differ sector to sector, will undergo a rigorous review process including from government officials, health experts, and industry representatives. Once completed, businesses that commit to complying with the requirements on the checklist will be provided a badge to post on their business door or website, their names will also be posted on the DECD website and they will be allowed to open. Health providers in Maine will follow U.S. CDC and professional association guidelines.