South Portland will require masks inside public buildings starting Monday – and it may impose fines on violators – in an effort to curb the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19.

A majority of the City Council supported the mandate at a workshop this week. Unlike similar mandates in Portland and Brunswick, masks will be required even if businesses also require proof of vaccination.

South Portland, which is a major service center in southern Maine, also will provide businesses with “mask required” signs and a limited number of face coverings to distribute to customers.

Although councilors said Tuesday that they didn’t want to impose fines on violators, the city’s announcement Friday indicated a willingness to do so but didn’t say how much the fines would be. Portland and Brunswick’s mandates carry fines of $500 per violation.

“This emergency regulation will be enforced by the city manager, local health officer, and health inspector, and anyone designated to do so by these officials,” South Portland’s statement said. “While fines for violations are allowed under the Code of Ordinances, the city hopes there will be voluntary compliance so that it does not have to resort to fining any businesses or individuals to obtain compliance.”

The mandate will apply to all buildings accessible to the public, including gyms and restaurants, and transportation services, such as buses and taxis. People will be allowed to remove their face coverings temporarily to eat or drink at a table inside a restaurant.

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The mandate will not apply to the city’s public school district, which has its own mask mandate. It also doesn’t apply to children under the age of 2, people who have difficulty breathing, or those who are alone in a public building.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that people over age 2 wear masks when physical distancing isn’t possible or in crowded indoor or outdoor public settings. South Portland will keep its mandate in effect while the seven-day average of new COVID cases for Cumberland County remains within the CDC’s definition of high or substantial transmission. If that count drops to a moderate or low transmission level for 10 consecutive days, the mandate will be suspended.

For more information, visit southportland.org/masks.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard contributed to this report.

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