The Brunswick Town Council and town staff met remotely Monday night, practicing social distancing. Only Town Manager John Eldridge and Council Chair John Perreault were in the council chambers in person. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick Town Council declared a civil state of emergency Monday night, effectively enacting a townwide shelter-in-place order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

“Every day looks worse than the day before,” Councilor James Mason, who proposed the order, said during the remote meeting. “We are in much worse shape than we were a week ago.” 

Under the new rules, all stores or businesses outside of a list of 27 “essential” industries, must close. The order is effective for seven days and is expected to be renewed. 

Essential businesses include, among others, health care facilities and pharmacies, grocery stores and markets, gas stations, food cultivation and processing businesses, banks and financial institutions, laundromats, public transportation, funeral homes, government facilities like public safety, trash collection agencies, construction companies, childcare centers, news agencies, medical marijuana establishments and animal care businesses like veterinary offices, pet supply stores and animal shelters, plumbers and hotels, among others. 

Fitness centers, auditoriums, casinos, yoga studios, movie theaters, museums, private clubs, dance clubs, music venues, recreation centers or other businesses not categorized as essential are to close. 

Restaurants are still permitted to operate in the current take-out only style, but customers aren’t allowed to enter the establishment and must instead be met outside by employees. 

Schools will still be permitted to hand out food and supplies for remote learning. 

A single employee may be in a closed establishment in order to perform necessary business functions that do not involve in-person contact with others. 

Social distancing and rules prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people are still in place. 

A complete list of essential businesses is available in the emergency regulation and will be posted on the town’s website.

The declaration closely mirrors a similar order issued by Bangor, which went into effect Monday and, according to the Bangor Daily News, are so far the strictest regulations in the state. 

According to Councilor Dan Ankeles, if densely populated towns and cities follow Brunswick’s and Bangor’s lead, it could help put pressure on the state government to issue a similar statewide declaration. 

Monday, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, announced 107 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus,  in Maine. Of those, 66 cases are in Cumberland County, where Shah said there is evidence of community transmission. Two people in the county have completely recovered, according to the CDC. 

According to Councilor Christopher Watkinson, “it’s critical we do everything possible to quash this as soon as we can.” If done correctly, it “should only be a matter of weeks of (a) shelter in place order for the worst of it to be over,” he said. 

The order was passed as an effort to reduce local spread of the virus, with the hope of not only keeping residents healthy and slowing the spread of COVID-19,, but also keeping numbers low so as not to overwhelm resources at Mid Coast Hospital.

“This council did not pass this lightly,” Ankeles said. “It’s a pretty big deal, what we just did… In no uncertain terms, if you are able to, please stay home. Make what we just did worth it.”

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