Early closing hours that are in effect for bars and restaurants will continue into the new year amid a surge in COVID-19 infections in Maine, Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday.

The early closing times for certain businesses were due to expire on Sunday, but they're being extended indefinitely. The goal is to curb late-night gatherings when people may let down their guard when it comes to precautions to avoid catching the virus.

“With more people getting sick, going to the hospital and dying from COVID-19 in Maine, it is clear we cannot afford to relax this rule now, especially as we wait to see the full impact of the holiday season on the rate of the virus transmission,” Mills said in a statement.

The governor’s order requires indoor amusements, outdoor amusements, movie theaters, performing arts venues, casinos, restaurants, bars and tasting rooms to close by 9 p.m.

In other pandemic-related news:



The number of positive tests dipped over the weekend when fewer testing locations were open, but they're growing again.

The number of new infections climbed to 590 on both Tuesday and Wednesday, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported. The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases stood at 432 on Wednesday, compared to just 73 cases per day for the week ending on Nov. 1.

The number of vaccinations that had been administered was 23,527, which is more than the number of people who've contracted the virus in Maine, said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control.



Fifty-four health care organizations that serve MaineCare patients will share $5.1 million in grants to sustain services during the COVID-19 pandemic, Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said.

The bulk of the money was awarded to hospitals and nursing homes, with grants also received by providers of children’s behavioral health and home health and hospice care.

“These grants offer new, immediate relief to hospitals and nursing homes that are providing vital health care throughout Maine,” Lambrew said.

The Department of Economic and Community Development is administering the grant program in coordination with DHHS.



A restaurateur who flouted coronavirus restrictions and went on TV to air his grievances against Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has lost his appeal to reinstate his business license.

A hearing officer rejected an emergency appeal by Rick Savage and his brother Ron to continue operating Sunday River Brewing Company.

The hearing officer wrote in his 11-page decision that the restaurant “failed to correct violations by departmentally determined deadlines and repeatedly incurred the same type of violations despite technical assistance and guidance from the department,” the Sun Journal reported.

Rick Savage, who opened his restaurant before being allowed to do so by the governor, attacked her polices on the Fox News show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and gave out the governor's personal cellphone number. Ron Savage said he’s now running the restaurant.

An attorney for the brothers accused the state of singling out the restaurant because of Rick Savage’s criticism of the governor’s emergency orders.



Maine dentists say the pandemic is taking a toll on oral health.

Dentists are seeing more cracked teeth and jaw pain from patients who're clenching their jaws and grinding their teeth, the Portland Press Herald reported. Patients also are complaining of headaches and teeth that are sensitive to the cold.

Dr. Todd Ray, a South Portland dentist who serves on the Maine Board of Dental Practice, believes the stress of the pandemic, along with political and social issues this year, have contributed to an increase in fractured and chipped teeth, crowns and bridges.

“Everyone’s lives are affected and there’s a lot of unknowns,” he said. “People are reporting they are a lot more stressed out.”