Treadmills are seen Tuesday through a window of the empty Planet Fitness on Marginal Way in Portland. Mainers learned Tuesday that they’ll have to wait longer to get back into the gym. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The Mills administration scrapped plans Tuesday to allow gyms, fitness centers and nail salons to reopen on June 1, but will allow private campgrounds and RV parks to open for Maine residents in time for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

The changes to Maine’s reopening plan were announced on the same day that the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 28 new coronavirus cases – raising the total to 1,741 – even as the number of Mainers with active cases of COVID-19 declined slightly.

The Maine CDC also reported three additional deaths which, after adjusting for an earlier death no longer linked to COVID-19, increased the total from 71 to 73. One of the newly reported deaths was a Cumberland County resident in his 40s who became only the second person in Maine under the age of 50 to die of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The state does not provide further information about patients, including whether they had underlying medical conditions.

The altered reopening timelines for campgrounds and fitness centers highlight the fluidity of Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to revive the state’s ailing economy based on developing science, practices in other states and input from businesses.

“It is important that the plan remain flexible and that we take steps to update it when necessary in order to both protect public health and support our economy,” Mills said in a statement.

CHANGING TIMELINES

While private campgrounds will be able to take some advantage – albeit with restrictions – of what is traditionally the busy opening weekend of the summer season, fitness centers and nail salons face a longer wait to fully reopen because of emerging research on outbreaks elsewhere.

Fitness centers and gyms can currently offer smaller, outdoor classes as well as one-on-one personal training sessions indoors. Under Mills’ original timeline, gyms would have been allowed to reopen their indoor spaces with enhanced health and safety practices on June 1, along with retail stores and restaurants throughout the state.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed to a recent medical study linking 112 cases in South Korea to dance fitness instructors who all attended a single workshop and then infected others in their classes. Shah said the changes are “an example of us following the data.”

“This is a respiratory virus – it’s a virus that comes out of your lungs and gets transmitted through the air,” Shah said. “And when you’ve got other people around you who are exercising and, thus, taking deep breaths in, it’s postulated that the possibility of transmission is greater.”

Campgrounds had previously been scheduled to reopen no sooner than June 1, but worked with the state to develop safety plans as part of the accelerated reopening. Those include limiting campsites to a single household, prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people, closing playgrounds and swimming pools, and stepped-up cleaning.

Only Maine residents will be able to take advantage of Friday’s campground openings. Out-of-state residents could begin using private campgrounds and RV parks on June 1, but will be required to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the state.

Campgrounds within Maine’s state parks will remain closed until June 1, as previously scheduled.

On the other hand, state officials said studies raised concerns about the transmission of the virus in gym settings and nail salons, the latter being a concern because California identified such establishments as a source of COVID-19 community transmission.

Mills administration officials said they will be monitoring the situation elsewhere and looking at research to decide on a new reopening timeframe for those businesses.

“We utilized the latest scientific research, leverage lessons learned in other states, and best practices being developed nationally and locally in collaboration with businesses,” said Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. “‘We recognize the effects that restarting the economy has on business owners, employees and residents, but we believe these updates are in the best interest of Maine people.”

NEW CASES AND DEATHS

The total number of new confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Maine climbed to 1,741, although the tally of Mainers with “active” cases of the disease decreased slightly from Monday, according to the latest figures from the Maine CDC.

After accounting for those 73 deaths and the 1,088 people who have recovered from the disease, the Maine CDC was reporting 580 active cases in the state. That is a decrease of nine cases from Monday.

Looking back over the past week, Maine has averaged 558 active cases of COVID-19 per day. By comparison, Maine was averaging 486 active cases daily during the previous seven-day period ending on May 12, showing the number of new cases continues to outpace recoveries or deaths.

Health officials say expanded testing in Maine is one factor in the discovery of new cases.

On Tuesday, Shah reported that the Maine CDC lab in Augusta is now able to process up to 1,000 test results per day, which is more than triple the state lab’s capacity from a few weeks ago. The Mills administration worked with Idexx Laboratories, a Westbrook-based veterinary diagnostics and services company, to expand the state lab’s capacity at a time when private or hospital labs are also ramping up their testing capabilities.

OUTBREAKS UPDATE

Shah also provided an update on the status of several potential new outbreaks of COVID-19 in Maine, including clusters of cases at Bristol Seafood’s processing plant in Portland and at a Portland affordable housing complex.

New test results turned up eight additional cases at Bristol Seafood’s facility on the Portland Fish Pier, raising the total to 13. The company planned to keep the plant closed again on Tuesday for cleaning and sanitizing and is working with the Maine CDC on further plans.

Additionally, Maine CDC epidemiologists continue to investigate cases at the 100 State Street housing complex that caters to senior citizens and individuals with disabilities.

Figures for the number of cases at the complex were not released Tuesday as the Maine CDC works to determine whether there is an “epidemiological link” among the cases. A representative for HallKeen Management, which operates the complex, said Monday evening that “fewer than 3 percent” of the roughly 215 residents had either tested positive for the virus or been exposed, which would mean no more than six people.

Shah said the Maine CDC will offer testing to all residents of the building. But because 100 State Street is an apartment complex, the Maine CDC is more limited in its ability to carry out universal testing than would be available at a state-licensed nursing home that has nurses or other health care providers on staff.

“For those reasons, what we are really thinking about is making sure testing is fully available,” Shah said. “We are thinking about something in the lobby so that all residents are aware that nurses will be there and offering testing, as opposed to what we might do in a nursing home where we might go around bed-by-bed and strongly recommending it.”

Congregate care settings account for more than half of all deaths in Maine to date, with two facilities – the Maine Veterans’ Home in Scarborough and Tall Pines nursing home in Belfast – each reporting at least a dozen deaths.

Overall, 86 percent of the 73 deaths in Maine have been among Mainers age 70 or older. The three new deaths reported Tuesday were all Cumberland County residents: a woman in her 80s, a woman in her 90s and the man in his 40s.

REOPENING CONTINUES

While fitness centers and nail salons will have to wait longer, the phased reopening of stores, restaurants and businesses in Maine continues to move forward.

On Monday, restaurants in 12 of Maine’s 16 counties were allowed to resume dine-in service as long as they complied with a checklist of health and safety guidelines aimed at reducing the risk of transmission. Even so, some restaurant owners opted to remain closed or to continue only providing take-out service.

Retail stores were allowed to reopen on May 11 in the 12 counties — Aroostook, Piscataquis, Washington, Hancock, Somerset, Franklin, Oxford, Kennebec, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc — if they also followed health and safety guidelines.

Most retail stores and restaurants in Cumberland, York, Androscoggin and Penobscot counties remain closed to in-store shopping or dining because Maine CDC epidemiologists have documented community transmission in the counties. Those businesses could reopen on June 1, however, under Mills’ multiphase plan.

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