Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand sent a memo out to selectmen last week in preparation for the state’s lifting of the pandemic mask mandate on Monday.

“I will continue requiring face coverings in our buildings until the Board has had a chance to have a discussion and make some decisions,” Almand said in the note.

Should selectmen decide to no longer require face coverings, Almand will require town employees and selectmen to provide proof of vaccination prior to allowing them indoors without face coverings “to be consistent with legal obligations and guidance.”

While Monday marked the state’s mask mandate being dropped, local municipal officials said they are tasked with reviewing their own safeguards and making revisions as they see fit for their communities. The result is that masks are still being required at some local municipal offices, while in others it is not.

In Skowhegan, the Board of Selectmen plan to review the town’s precautions at Tuesday’s regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the Skowhegan Community Center.

Almand’s note outlines the town’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the recent change to the state’s mask mandate and talking points to consider during the discussion. She also cites the recent changes made to the county’s coronavirus guidance, which was approved by commissioners last week. She said that the county guidance included that the public must wear face coverings in buildings, while vaccinated employees do not.

In Almand’s note, she cites that as of May 17, Skowhegan has a vaccination rate of 56%, which includes people that have received only a first dose, per Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention data.

Some municipalities, including Norridgewock, Winslow, China and Belgrade, have already made adjustments in accordance with the new guidelines.

NORRIDGEWOCK

In Norridgewock, Town Manager Richard LaBelle said on Monday that in accordance with state regulations, masks will not be required in town offices. In a memo to town employees on May 20, LaBelle said that in response to this change, “no signage will be provided for you to post and no memorandums need to be posted.”

Discussions on how to proceed with masking in town offices included selectmen, LaBelle said. A key discussion was how to handle proof of vaccination among employees and community members.

Earlier that day before the change in guidance was issued, LaBelle sent a memo that said that “employees should not inquire as to whether or not a colleague, customer, vendor, or other member of the general public is vaccinated or not.”

“Our intention was to use the honor system,” LaBelle said. “There is a lack of clarity in the executive order; it does not differentiate between those who are vaccinated or unvaccinated.”

He said that the town’s guidance reflects this as well, saying that they’ve made changes to reflect “clarification that’s required.” By lunch time on Monday, he said there’s been an equal split of residents coming into the town office masked and unmasked.

WINSLOW

Winslow is going to continue require masks in its office, Town Manager Erica LaCroix said, but beginning June 1 town offices will be open without a capacity limit.

LaCroix said the town chose to keep the mask requirement, because not all of the town staff are vaccinated and children under the age of 12 cannot be vaccinated.

“We haven’t made the decisions to open council meetings yet, because we’re talking about a fairly small and compact space,” LaCroix said.

FAIRFIELD

Fairfield is working to finalize new rules for the town office, and hopes to announce that information next week, but in the meantime has adjusted signage to say masks are “requested” but no longer required, said Town Manager Michelle Flewelling.

Flewelling said she is hesitant to end all restrictions, as there are currently a few positive COVID-19 cases in staff members not located at the town office.

It’s interesting because we still have staff newly testing positive, but these requirements are going away,” Flewelling said. “So we are trying to juggle that.”

PITTSFIELD

Pittsfield will not require masks in the public library or town building, but do recommend that people wear them, since both spaces are fairly small, said Pittsfield Town Manager Kathryn Ruth. One factor in decision-making is the vaccination rate in the area, which is around 56% for Pittsfield, but lower in the surrounding rural communities, Ruth said. That has also prompted a Federal Emergency Management Agency mobile vaccination clinic to set up in the area in early June. 

CHINA, OAKLAND, VASSALBORO

China Town Manager Becky Hapgood said the town is following the governor’s mandate, as well as Clinton, Oakland and Vassalboro. In Vassalboro, plexiglass barriers are used to separate counters in the town office.

“We are using the suggested honor system and will not be checking papers at the door,” Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman said. “I feel that since we have been following all guidelines to date, we should not change our course of action now. It would create more of a battle that we don’t need.”

BELGRADE

The Town of Belgrade sent out a notice to residents just shy of 10 a.m. Monday announcing it would follow the state’s requirements at the town office and the Belgrade/Rome Special Needs Food Pantry.

WATERVILLE

Waterville City Manager Stephen Daly said that signs were posted on City Hall doors Monday morning saying masks are not required unless the person entering is not fully vaccinated. Those who are not fully vaccinated are asked to wear a mask, he said.

“It’s an honor system,” he said. “It’s always been an honor system. My position is, if the governor is lifting the mask mandate, if we don’t go along with the governor’s guidance — if we don’t trust the vaccines, then where do we go next?”

City Hall employees have the option of masking up or not, according to Daly.

“If they’re not fully vaccinated,” he said, “we’re asking them to wear a mask.”

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