WINTHROP — While Augusta has rescinded its emergency declaration related to the coronavirus, other central Maine communities are using theirs to strengthen local guidelines.

In March, Augusta, Gardiner, Hallowell and Winthrop issued emergency orders related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Those orders gave municipal officials the authority to quickly make decisions, when normal municipal government would have caused those decisions to wait for meetings.

On Monday, the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention reported 18 more cases, adding to 3,832 confirmed or probable cases and 119 coronvirus-related deaths. The number of active cases in Maine was 421 on Monday,

Augusta rescinded its emergency order July 16, with city officials indicating the city’s order was made redundant by guidelines set by Gov. Janet Mills. The other three municipalities still have their orders in place.

Winthrop Town Council Chairperson Sarah Fuller said the town does not have any plans to rescind the order. She said the town’s Emergency Management Agency continues to meet weekly to monitor and evaluate how the pandemic is progressing.


In fact, Winthrop officials tightened local mask-wearing guidelines last week, even though the town was not included in a new batch of geographical areas where enforcement was mandated by Mills on July 8.

That order required large retail businesses, restaurants, outdoor bars, tasting rooms and lodging establishments in Cumberland, York, Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, and the cities of Bangor, Brewer, Lewiston, Auburn and Augusta to enforce the requirement for people to wear face coverings in areas where social distancing is not possible.

Winthrop’s new guidelines state that “individuals must wear face masks or shields in … eating establishments, bars or tasting rooms, lodging operations and accommodations, businesses, buildings, parks, and campgrounds.”

Fuller said the town made the change because officials believed it did not make sense to have pockets of enforcement. She also said the town has been “dealing with a lot of complaints” about local businesses not enforcing mask-wearing requirements.

Winthrop Town Manager Jeffrey Kobrock said town officials aren’t planning to rescind the order as the count of cases ticks up around the country. Also part of the consideration, he said, is Winthrop’s seasonal appeal, which brings a number of out-of-staters to the lakeside town.

“It’s not entirely out of the question that we might find ourselves back in the (types of conditions like in March or April) some time in the near future,” Kobrock said. “Anyone who has spent summers in this area knows that there are a lot of out-of-state visitors all summer long. That’s one of the things we’ve been concerned about.”


Fuller said the town is looking to stay vigilant, even as Maine’s cases are trending downward, especially as schools begin to reopen and people begin to leave home more often.

“When things are opening and Maine’s numbers stay low, people can lured into a false sense of security,” she said. “We should stay vigilant, even as people are eager.”

Because their towns are not included in the stricter requirements, Gardiner and Hallowell officials also said the municipal orders allow them to enforce guidelines and act quickly during the pandemic.

Gardiner City Manager Christine Landes said the town’s emergency operations staff will meet Tuesday to discuss rescinding the order, but there will be no item on the agenda for the August 5 City Council meeting. She said city officials may take it up in September.

Mayor Pat Hart said the City Council is operating as normal under the order, except for the renewal of liquor licenses, which is handled by Landes and Hart without a vote of the full council.

Gardiner Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Al Nelson said the emergency management team was not planning to change anything, but wanted to keep the order up so it could have the “flexibility” to make changes if needed.


Hallowell City Manager and Health Officer Nate Rudy also said now may not be the “right time” to rescind the city’s emergency. Another factor, he said is that by ordinance City Hall is required to be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Under the emergency order, Rudy said, City Hall’s hours were able to be reduced to protect employees from potential exposure to the coronavirus.

There is an amendment to that ordinance currently before the City Council that would change the requirement. It strikes the times City Hall must be open and authorizes the City Manager “to close city offices when prudent,” citing weather and other emergency conditions. The first of three readings was passed on July 13.

Rudy said once the ordinance passes, a review of the emergency declaration may take place.

If there is an uptick in cases in Kennebec County, Rudy said, the city may institute a second state of emergency in response. He said Hallowell should be cautious in terms of public health, as it is home to a number of care facilities.

“It’s especially incumbent on us to take precautions to protect public health,” Rudy said.

He also said he has considered presenting a tougher mask-wearing enforcement mandate to the City Council, which has been recommended by the city’s Board of Health.

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