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June 11, 2020

State, local government offices begin to reopen; train is moving again

File Photo The Amtrak Downeaster, shown pulling into Freeport, will run a later train from Boston after Red Sox games and concerts.

As public health restrictions are lifted and Maine businesses gradually reopen, government offices and transportation infrastructure are also beginning to resume regular operations.

In keeping with the reopening schedule ordered by Gov. Janet Mills, the state Department of Health and Human Services and its 16 regional offices have returned to normal business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, according to a news release.

The department, with 3,400 employees the largest in the Maine state government, requires visitors to wear cloth face coverings when entering DHHS offices. Employees must also wear the coverings when interacting with the public, and the department is encouraging the use of social distancing, hand sanitizers and other health measures in its offices.

Each office is appropriately staffed to meet demand for in-person assistance, DHHS said, but noted that most employees are working remotely and will continue to. The department offices, sited throughout the state from Biddeford to Fort Kent, curtailed their hours and operations in mid-March.

Maine’s three largest municipalities are also reopening their doors.

Workers returned to Portland City Hall last week, and this week the city resumed some in-person services there. The city clerk’s office is now open to visitors, and the treasurer’s office staff is available by appointment. Other on-site services may remain closed.

The city of Lewiston said Wednesday its administrative offices will again be open to the public beginning on Monday, although its Social Services Department will continue to handle General Assistance functions only by telephone or mail.

Bangor City Hall has also reopened to the public, although some on-site services are available only by appointment. 

In addition, the city of Bangor said Wednesday its Community Connector public bus system will resume collecting fares for all passengers July 1. Fare collection was suspended in March to ease compliance with COVID-19 health protocols.

Downeaster chugging again

Amtrak Downeaster passenger rail service in Maine will start up again on a limited basis Monday.

The train, which serves six stops in southern Maine, will run one daily round trip between Brunswick and Boston, according to a news release Wednesday. Downeaster service has been suspended since April 13.
Among other new safety precautions, crews and passengers will be required to wear face coverings while boarding and moving about the train, the Northern New England Passenger Authority said.

The number of passengers per train will also be limited to no more than 50% of available seating capacity, so riders are able to adhere to physical distancing guidelines. 

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