Retailers in 12 counties to reopen; CDC watches for outbreak

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Retailers in 12 counties that have not experienced large numbers of coronavirus cases began reopening Monday in Maine.

New guidelines announced late last week by Gov. Janet Mills allow retail stores to reopen with enhanced safety precautions in all parts of Maine except four counties: York, Cumberland, Androscoggin and Penobscot. Restaurants follow on May 18.

The Maine Center for Disease Control will be monitoring infection rates and will make suggestions if there's an increase, said Dr. Nirav Shah, CDC director.

“We're continuing our analysis of the data because we want to make sure that if a secondary spike were to occur, that we’re able to spot it and able to take policy steps accordingly," Shah told reporters.

LaNiece Sirois from the Central Aroostook Chamber of Commerce encouraged customers to be patient as retailers sort out safety restrictions. Among other things, retailers have limits on how many people can be in a store at a time, she said.

Restaurants are preparing to reopen in week.

“The priority for us is giving the community an outlet to come join us. I feel like, sure, people want to go and have a meal but more than that they want to reconnect with people in their community,” said Ken Hall from JR Maxwell’s Restaurant in Bath.

Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments in Maine:

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THE NUMBERS

One person died and 26 more people tested positive for the virus over the past 24 hours, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported.

The updated figures bring the total number of deaths to 65 and the total number of confirmed cases to 1,462 in Maine, officials said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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SHIPYARD ATTENDANCE

Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works resumed normal attendance policies.

Shipbuilders for weeks were given the option of taking excused, unpaid leave during the coronavirus pandemic. That policy ended Monday.

No employees have tested positive since April 2. Two employees who tested positive have recovered and returned to work, the shipyard said.

Distancing measures remain in place and workers are encouraged to wear masks or face coverings.

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VIDEO PROCEEDINGS

The state supreme court returned to session, in a virtual sense.

Justices heard arguments in five cases Monday via video conferencing because of the coronavirus. The court used videoconferencing for arguments for the first time on April 28 in a lawsuit over a referendum on a utility corridor.

Cases that were argued Monday included appeals by a New York man convicted of felony murder and a Maine man convicted of causing the death of a child.

The acting chief justice was in Bangor while the other justices were in Portland and Augusta. Attorneys spoke from their homes or offices.

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SUMMER CAMPS

A dozen or more summer camps won’t be opening this summer because of the coronavirus, but others are still awaiting further guidance before issuing a decision.

Many of Maine’s more than 270 summer camps remain hopeful that they can reopen.

Mills announced a timeline for reopening parts of the state’s economy, including allowing day camps to open June 1 for Maine children and non-Maine residents who have quarantined for 14 days. Overnight camps can reopen July 1.

The camps contribute about $200 million to the state’s economy each year, Ron Hall, executive director of Maine Summer Camps, told the Portland Press Herald.

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PORTLAND HEADLIGHT

The park that’s home to Maine’s oldest lighthouse reopened Monday to pedestrians and cyclists.

Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, which is home to the Portland Headlight, will have some restrictions. Some playground areas, binoculars and other equipment were marked as off limits.

Face coverings are not required but park visitors are expected to follow social distancing guidelines, staying at least 6 feet apart.