Maine gov: Store workers shouldn’t have to be “COVID cops”

Laveta Brigham

Madeleine Dawson jogs along the Riverwalk in Lewiston, Maine on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. Dawson, a Bates College student, has been enjoying the warm weather the last few days and says that jogging while wearing a mask does not bother her at all. Andree Kehn AP PORTLAND, Maine Workers at […]

Madeleine Dawson jogs along the Riverwalk in Lewiston, Maine on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. Dawson, a Bates College student, has been enjoying the warm weather the last few days and says that jogging while wearing a mask does not bother her at all.

Madeleine Dawson jogs along the Riverwalk in Lewiston, Maine on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. Dawson, a Bates College student, has been enjoying the warm weather the last few days and says that jogging while wearing a mask does not bother her at all.

AP

Workers at local stores who encounter people who won’t comply with Maine mask requirements shouldn’t have to enforce the rules themselves, the state’s governor said.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, issued an executive order last week that requires people in the state to wear a mask in all public places, regardless of their ability to socially distance. She said during an appearance on Maine Public that too much of the burden of enforcement often lands on store employees.

Mills recommended residents who encounter people who aren’t following the mask rules talk to store managers or local authorities.

“I don’t want to put it on the frontline workers who are often young people working at minimum wage jobs. They’re not the COVID cops, and I don’t want to put that on them,” Mills said. “But they can call the police, and they can call the local code enforcement officer or health officer.”

Mills’ statement came at a time of alarming virus numbers: Maine recorded more than 190 new coronavirus cases and one new death on Thursday as officials warily monitored growing weekly rates. The seven-day rolling average for daily cases rose to 165, which is five times the average from a month ago, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control.

There are active cases in all 16 counties. Five of the counties are now classified as having high or substantial community transmission: Franklin, Knox, Somerset, Waldo and Washington counties, officials said.

The total number of positive test reports since the pandemic began grew to nearly 8,400.

In other news related to the pandemic in Maine:

JOBLESS CLAIMS

The Maine Department of Labor recorded nearly 3,000 new unemployment claims, an increase linked to seasonal layoffs in restaurants, lodging and construction industries, officials said Thursday.

There were about 2,300 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance and another 300 initial claims filed through the federal pandemic unemployment assistance program.

In total, nearly 43,000 Mainers are receiving continuing aid through state and federal jobless programs.

Between March 15 and Nov. 7, the Maine Department of Labor has paid over $1.6 billion in unemployment benefits.

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HOCKEY AGREEMENT

Mills on Thursday also joined governors of six other states across the region in suspending interstate youth hockey games amid a surge in coronavirus cases over the past month.

Six New England states and New Jersey will suspend interstate competitions for public and private schools and youth hockey programs starting Saturday and continuing through year’s end, Mills said.

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TESTING ACCESSIBILITY

A laboratory group has launched a new coronavirus testing initiative that it said will make testing more accessible in Maine and New Hampshire.

NorDx Laboratories said the new testing option will allow patients across Maine and in Carroll County, New Hampshire, to get a test without a doctor’s referral. Results from the tests can be made available in 72 hours or less, and patients can be notified by email, the lab group said.

NorDx laboratory director Robert Carlson said access to the results “can play an important role in helping to slow the spread of the disease, providing patients with one more option to consider if they have symptoms or think they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus.”

NorDx is part of MaineHealth, which is the largest healthcare system in the state.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services also said that the first 10 of up to 65 Walgreens testing sites are set to open on Friday. All of the sites are expected to be open by Nov. 23.

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