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Originally published in Castine Patriot, December 17, 2020 and Island Ad-Vantages, December 17, 2020 and The Weekly Packet, December 17, 2020
COVID-19 surge brings mask mandate, isolation guidelines

COVID-19 Local Updates Fall/Winter 2020
Click here to see the full COVID-19 Local Updates Fall/Winter 2020.

by Leslie Landrigan

On December 11, Gov. Janet Mills ordered everyone in Maine to wear a mask inside a retail store. If they don’t, they can be charged with criminal trespassing, she said.

“There’s a clear, bright line today [about wearing masks],” Mills said in a zoom conference. “More severe restrictions may be necessary.”

Even people with medical exemptions are subject to the order, she said. They can be accommodated in other ways but they may not enter a store.

The move follows a lengthy effort by state and local officials trying to hammer home the message about stopping the spread of COVID-19. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Avoid indoor gatherings.

Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane said he’s no fan of the mask, but he takes the need for it seriously and he has to enforce the law. If a business owner calls to ask for help with a customer who refuses to wear a mask, a deputy will respond, he said in a phone interview.

Kane said the sheriff’s department will handle the mask mandate diplomatically.

“Do I have my people out there looking for people who aren’t wearing masks and issuing summons?” he said. “Absolutely not.”

When to isolate

Another message that hasn’t quite gotten across to everyone has to do with isolation. If someone is awaiting a test for COVID-19, everyone else in the household must isolate until the test shows negative.

Isolation means isolation except to get medical services. “You cannot go out in public (e.g., work, grocery stores, banks, gas stations, beaches or parks,” according to Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Chris Elkington, superintendent of the Brooklin, Sedgwick and Deer Isle-Stonington schools, reminded parents and guardians to keep their children home while waiting to find out if they’re COVID-positive. Some school parents work at the Island Nursing Home, where a COVID-19 outbreak spread to every resident, killing 12, and to dozens of staff.

Elkington emailed a reminder to parents, “based on some concerns we have had to deal with at our schools the last two weeks,” on December 13.

“Per the CDC and quite honestly common sense, if anyone in your household is getting tested because of a concern they or you have in the back of your mind about COVID-19 or because they are symptomatic your entire household needs to isolate until results are back!,” he wrote. “PLEASE don’t send your child(ren) to school if someone in your household is waiting for test results.”

If a test comes back positive, household members must then stay home for 10 days after the COVID-19 patient is released from isolation, according to DHHS.