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May 17, 2021

Mills ends face mask requirements for indoor restaurants, bars and other settings

File photo Gov. Janet Mills, who is vaccinated and boosted, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

A day after ending health rules that had limited the size of public gatherings, Gov. Janet Mills on Friday relaxed requirements that Mainers wear protective face masks inside venues such as restaurants and bars.

The new policies follow changes in federal guidance, and take effect in Maine on May 24, the governor’s office said in a news release.

On Thursday, Mills had announced the state would lift all gathering restrictions based on venue capacity, and that social distancing would no longer be required outdoors. Requirements for face coverings and social distancing continued to be in effect for indoor restaurants, bars, cafeterias and other venues where people eat and drink. 

Within hours of Mills’ announcement, the federal government changed its own guidance, saying that fully vaccinated people did not need to wear masks or practice social distancing in any setting, indoors or outdoors.

Maine’s policy will change May 24 to agree with the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — allowing at least some Mainers to go maskless when they eat or drink inside a restaurant.

Mills urged residents to get inoculated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.

“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. There are appointments available across the state right now. As we get back to normal, rolling up your sleeve is going to ensure that you stay healthy and alive,” she said in the release.

The state policy recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated continue to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. And none of the new rules trump requirements set by businesses for their own employees or customers.

With the state following USCDC guidance, Maine will also begin retiring its COVID-19 Prevention Checklists and transitioning to federal guidelines, according to the governor’s office.

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