Maine businesses signal willingness to follow new mask guidelines

Jul. 28—Many stores, restaurants and hotels in Maine said they will follow federal mask recommendations mirrored by Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday, but some recalled the stress among customers and staff that the governor's mask mandate brought earlier in the pandemic.

"It was a war last year," Randy Coulton, co-owner of Kamp Kamp Moosehead Lake Indian Store in Greenville, said. "There were a lot of threats and people screaming. We told them they'd have to leave or we would call the police."

The new recommendations, which followed U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines issued Tuesday amid rising COVID-19 cases in certain parts of the state, do not have the teeth of the past controversial mandates that came under the governor's emergency powers and carried force of law. The recommendations give businesses more say in how they will enforce mask-wearing, industry experts said.

Mills' recommendations ask that all people, regardless of their vaccination status, wear face coverings in indoor, public settings in areas of the state with substantial or high levels of community transmission.

Currently, only Waldo County has "substantial" levels of COVID-19 with more than 50 cases or more per 100,000 people over a week, according to a U.S. CDC tracker. York and Piscataquis counties were above the threshold on Tuesday but fell below it on Wednesday.

Coulton said his staff continued to wear masks even after the governor announced that fully vaccinated people need not wear masks indoors as of May 24. A sign on the door says the store says "masks appreciated" for those who are not vaccinated, and he plans to keep it up following the governor's recommendation. Most of the customers in the store Wednesday morning were not wearing masks.

"We wear them because of the children who cannot be vaccinated and the compromised individuals," he said.

Doug Campbell, Erin Riley and Michael Begley, co-owners of Peace, Love & Waffles, a restaurant in Dover-Foxcroft, will follow the new mask recommendations from Gov. Janet Mills. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Peace, Love & Waffles, a restaurant in Dover-Foxcroft, stopped asking its staff and customers to wear masks in early July, but now that coronavirus cases are increasing, it may put a sign back up on the door asking diners to don masks if they aren't vaccinated.

"If we think it's better for us to start wearing masks again, then we'll do our part," Michael Begley, manager of the restaurant, said. "We'll follow the guidelines as best we can."

Hannaford Supermarket, which has nine stores in York County and none in Piscataquis County, also will follow CDC guidance, spokesperson Ericka Dodge said.

Erin Riley, co-owner of Peace, Love & Waffles, a restaurant in Dover-Foxcroft, checks on customers in the large outdoor seating area on Wednesday afternoon. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The Edgewater Motel plans to honor the governor's request, Pierre Janelle, owner of the 36-room hotel in Old Orchard Beach, said. He said property staff are fully vaccinated.

"This has been a pretty emotional thing for everybody," Janelle said. "People have been pretty courteous here. They were just thrilled to be able to get away."

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