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Mills signs face covering mandate for indoor facilities

Four additional COVID-19 deaths, 345 new cases
By Fran Gonzalez | Dec 11, 2020

Augusta — Four additional people have died from COVID-19 since yesterday and there are 345 newly reported cases of the virus, according to Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the Friday, Dec. 11, media briefing, Shah said a man and woman in their 80s from Hancock County, a woman in her 80s from Oxford County, and a woman in her 70s from Penobscot County all died from the disease.

A total of 250 people have died over the course of the pandemic in Maine with 15,206 overall cases reported. Currently there are 182 people in the hospital with COVID-19, 50 in intensive care units and 16 on ventilators.

Waldo County has seen seven additional cases since Wednesday with a cumulative total of 278. Currently there are 62 active cases in the county, along with 17 hospitalizations and 17 deaths in all.

Shah said the Maine CDC is lowering the quarantine period from 14 to 10 days for people traveling into Maine from states other than Vermont or New Hampshire.

People traveling into the state can "test out" of quarantine by virtue of having a negative test result. But if you are a close contact of someone confirmed as having COVID-19, Shah said, you must stay in quarantine for the full 10 days, whether or not you have a negative test result.

He also said the CDC "is ready to take the baton" in terms of receiving the Pfizer vaccine, which he said will possibly be available next week. He backed off giving an actual date, saying it was hard to predict with the emergency use authorization not passed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration yet.

The state is slated to receive 12,850 individual doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first round once the FDA gives emergency authorization; 37,850 doses in the second. Shah said, "if we had our druthers, we would not be ordering 12,000; there would be zeroes behind that."

Gov. Janet Mills said her quarantine period ended Tuesday and that she had tested negative for the virus.

Mills announced an executive ordered effective immediately, under which operators of indoor public facilities must require all persons to wear face coverings in publicly accessible areas. Retail stores, bars and restaurants will be able to deny entry for noncompliance she said. People who claim medical exemptions will be reasonably accommodated, she said, such as being directed to use curbside pickup.

"Anyone who still insists," Mills said, "will be removed and charged with criminal trespassing."

If people are aware of someone not following the mandate, Mills recommends initially contacting the manager of the establishment. If that fails, call local police, she said.

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