Maine is reporting 170 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, and two additional deaths, three days before Gov. Janet Mills repeals the mask mandate in most settings.
An executive order signed by Mills on Wednesday goes further than an announcement by the governor last week, when Mills said the state would be aligning with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that only people who are fully vaccinated can go into indoor public places without a mask.
Businesses can still require customers to wear masks, but starting Monday, it is no longer mandated by the state.
Last week, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, and Jeanne Lambrew, Maine’s health and human services commissioner, acknowledged that it would be difficult for businesses to differentiate between customers who were fully vaccinated and those who were not, and said enforcement would likely be largely the purview of business owners.
So starting Monday, the mask mandate is repealed for everyone, except mask wearing is still required in schools and child care facilities.
The repeal comes at a time when vaccination is slowing, but case counts are also declining. The seven-day average of daily new cases fell below 200 on Friday, to 196.3, the first time the seven-day average has been below 200 since late March. A week ago, the seven-day average was 269.3 and a month ago, 421.9.
Since the pandemic began, 66,704 people in Maine have tested positive for COVID-19, with 818 deaths.
Vaccinations continue to climb above 50 percent of Maine’s total 1.3 million population, with 692,796, or 51.54 percent of the population, receiving at least the first dose. Also, 661,896, or 49.24 percent, have received their final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As demand for the vaccines weaken, the state is shifting its vaccination strategy away from mass vaccination sites, to smaller-scale operations like at schools, doctor’s offices, pharmacies and workplaces.
The Scarborough Downs location, operated by MaineHealth, closed on Thursday. The Portland Expo site will close on June 18, and the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor will shutter on May 27. The Expo and Cross sites are both run by Northern Light Health.
“We are closing because we did our job,” said Ellie Foster, a pod team leader at Scarborough Downs, on the clinic’s final day on Thursday. “This is more sweet than bitter. We put ourselves out of business.”
This story will be updated.