PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine officials said Friday the state will align with the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and allow vaccinated people to stop wearing masks indoors.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said the new rules will take effect in Maine on May 24, which is also the day the state is slated to remove all capacity limits for public indoor venues. Mills said the state is also going to lift physical distancing requirements at indoor public settings, including those where people will be eating or drinking.
State officials are also echoing the CDC's recommendations that people who are not yet fully vaccinated wear face coverings in indoor settings. Mills said the state is making the recommendations in the wake of new guidance from the CDC that was released Thursday.
“After a review of the new guidance, we are adopting the U.S. CDC’s recommendations, and we continue to strongly urge all Maine people to get their shots," Mills said.
Mills announced relaxed pandemic restrictions Thursday that did not go quite as far as the CDC's. The two sets of recommendations were released at almost exactly the same time.
Republicans in the state urged Mills to adopt the CDC's recommendations earlier Friday.
“Mainers have sacrificed a lot over the last fourteen months and have done what has been required of them," House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham said.
In other pandemic news in Maine:
The numbers of daily new coronavirus cases and deaths are trending down in Maine.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 296.71 new cases a day on April 28 to 266.86 new cases a day on Wednesday. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 1.86 deaths a day on April 28 to 0.71 deaths a day Wednesday.
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 Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday that there have been more than 65,000 positive cases of the virus in the state since the start of the pandemic. There have also been 799 deaths.
Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said about 52% of the eligible people in the state have had their final dose of coronavirus vaccine. That includes people age 12 and older.
“Maine people have done their part. They've rolled up their sleeves, they've gotten their shots,” said Jeanne Lambrew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
STATE HOUSE MIGHT REOPEN
Legislative leaders say new COVID-19 guidelines for indoor gatherings could open the door to lawmakers to return to session in the State House. In Washington, Republican Sen. Susan Collins waved her mask in the air on the Senate floor in celebration of the loosened restrictions.
Maine Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, issued a joint statement Thursday saying they would explore plans to reopen the State House.
“Maine people have put in the work and they’re the reason we are on the edge of normalcy,” they said.
Because of the pandemic, lawmakers have conducted committee meetings remotely and have met a handful of times in person at the Augusta Civic Center since the session formally convened in December.
In Washington, Collins took off her mask and waved it, calling the new mask guidance "overdue” but a sign of progress.
Collins has criticized the CDC for mask guidance that she said was not consistent with the best available evidence. She said Americans will have more confidence in the CDC's recommendations if it's guidelines are up to date and reflect common sense.
"If people find they cannot do anything differently after a vaccine, they will not see the benefit in getting vaccinated," she said.