COVID-19 Alert: State of Maine and City of Portland Issue Orders to Close Non-essential Businesses
On Tuesday March 24, 2020, both the City of Portland and the State of Maine issued comprehensive new limitations on business establishments in order to further limit the spread of the coronavirus. Both actions were aimed at limiting the operation of non-essential business and government operations, and continuing to encourage social distancing.
State of Maine Issues Executive Order to Close Public-Facing, Non-essential Businesses
During the early afternoon of March 24th, Maine Governor Janet Mills held a press conference where she announced an emergency order to temporarily close the physical locations of public-facing, non-essential businesses. The order becomes effective at 12AM on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 and continues until April 8, 2020, unless modified. A press release announcing the executive order can be found here.
Essential businesses covered by the order include a wide range of establishments. The actual text of the order is available here, and highlights the following essential businesses:
1. Identified by the United States Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response dated March 19, 2020. A copy thereof is attached and incorporated herein by this reference; and
2. In addition or for clarity here in Maine, include the following:food processing and agriculture; fishing and aquaculture; industrial manufacturing; construction and maintenance of essential infrastructure; trash collection and transfer stations; grocery and household goods (including convenience stores); forest products; essential home repair, hardware and auto repair; pharmacy and other medical, psychiatric, and long-term care facilities; group homes and residential treatment facilities; biomedical, life science, behavioral health, health care, dental care, and long-term services and supports providers and organizations; child care providers; post offices and shipping outlets; banks and credit unions; gas stations and laundromats; veterinary clinics, animal welfare and animal feed and supply stores; truck delivery and distribution of goods; public transportation; legal, business, professional, environmental permitting and insurance services; hotel and commercial lodging; and allutilities such as electricity, water, wastewater, and telecommunications.
For business sites not designated as “essential,” they must cease operations at locations which are (1) “public facing,” or (2) at sites which require more than 10 workers to convene in spaces where social distancing is not possible. Business locations may continue at locations which do not allow customer, vendor, or in-person contact; do not require more than 10 workers to convene in a space that does not allow social distancing, and are facilitated “to the maximum extent practicable” by employees working remotely.
All business, whether essential or non-essential, were further urged to make best efforts to implement and actively enforce social distancing requirements in and around their facilities. This includes maintaining 6-feet distancing for workers and customers, and promoting remote employment. The order included recommendations that appear geared toward big box and other retail establishments, including recommendations to designate waiting areas for customers to allow social distancing, making hand sanitizer available, implementing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers, and posting operating hours online.
City of Portland Issues “Stay at Home” Order
Less than an hour after Governor Mills issued her executive order, the City of Portland issued its own “stay at home” order that goes a step further than the Governor’s order. The order was jointly announced at a press conference held by Portland Mayor Kate Snyder and Portland City Manager Jon Jennings. The full text of the order is copied above and available here. The press release is available here.
The order goes into effect at 5PM on Wednesday March 25, 2020remains in effect for five days, unless extended by the Portland City Council.
The City’s order includes two major elements. First, it asks residents to stay home, other than for activities food shopping, outdoor exercise and walking, going to essential businesses, and several other exceptions. Residents were further encouraged to continue social distancing practices.
Second, the City’s directive calls for the temporary closure of any “brick and mortar” business with a location in Portland that is not deemed “essential.” Notably, the City’s list is shorter and more general than the list of essential businesses provided by the State, but the basic intent is similar. Business not considered essential are required to close their brick and mortar facilities to workers, customers, and the public, but workers may access the facility for essential business functions (see below).
All businesses with a facility in the City of Portland that do not provide COVID-19 Essential Services, shall close their physical workspaces and facilities (“brick-and-mortar premises”) to workers, customers, and the public as of the effective date and time of this proclamation. Businesses that do not provide COVID-19 Essential Services are encouraged to continue operations through remote means that do not require workers, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed pursuant to this proclamation. With that said, such non-essential businesses may continue to access their brick-and-mortar premises in order to conduct essential business functions including, but not limited to, processing mail, depositing checks, completing payroll and paying vendors; as long as social distancing requirements are being implemented, and the fewest number of employees possible are on premises when conducting such services. Churches, temples, mosques, and other places of worship shall not be required to close their brick-and-mortar premises to employees or to the public; provided, however, that such institutions shall be required to comply with all limitations on gatherings established by Governor Janet T. Mills’ March 15, 2020 executive order outlined in paragraph 2 above.
In addition to Portland, the municipalities of Bangor and Brunswick issued “stay at home” notices.
Stay tuned for more developments as Maine continues its efforts to confront the spread of COVID-19.