PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine's governor announced Wednesday the state is requiring many businesses to enforce mask rules, and extending its state of civil emergency order until at least August.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order requiring large retail stores, restaurants, lodging establishments and some other businesses to enforce the face covering requirement in Maine's coastal counties and its most populous cities. Mills said the move, which strengthens existing rules in the state, will help the state contain the new coronavirus as its economy reopens and tourists return.

Mills also extended the state of civil emergency until Aug. 6. She has said the state of emergency allows the state's government to “deploy all available resources to protect the health and safety of Maine people and to respond quickly and as-needed to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Maine has a relatively low case count compared to other states in the Northeast, and there are good signs that it could stay that way, but state government and residents must remain vigilant, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director Nirav Shah said. The state's percent positivity rate was below 1% on Tuesday, which was less than the seven-day average, he said.

“There are good signs on the horizon. We must not use this as a reason to celebrate. The positivity rate could go up just as it has gone down,” Shah said.

In other news related to the coronavirus in Maine:



Maine officials reported 20 more confirmed cases of the virus in the state on Wednesday, bringing the total reported cases to 3,460. The state has also reported 110 deaths due to the virus. There were no new deaths reported on Wednesday.

The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.



Maine's independent senator proposed a law change that he said would make it easier for businesses to calculate the amount of loan forgiveness they will receive through the Paycheck Protection Program.

The federal paycheck program is designed to help employers weather economic stresses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Maine Sen. Angus King has proposed the Calculate PPP Forgiveness Act of 2020, which directs the federal Small Business Administration to develop a calculator for businesses that want to estimate their loan forgiveness amount.

King, who proposed the idea along with Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, said the new tool would be free. King said the tool would give business owners more clarity in planning finances.

“This bill would provide peace of mind to businesses that've utilized the PPP to stay afloat, and will help them avoid harmful financial surprises,” he said.



Maine's hospitals and small businesses will receive more than $2 million in federal aid to help with the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services was awarded more than $1.1 million to support the hospitals, King and Republican Sen. Susan Collins said Tuesday. The senators said the money will provide support for front-line medical professionals.

The money will be used to train workforce, expand telemedicine and buy supplies, the senators said.

The senators also announced that four councils of governments and development commissions will receive a total of $1.6 million in federal support. The money is intended to help with revitalization of small businesses, the senators said.