The City Council, meeting remotely Monday via Zoom, extended the stay at home order throughout the city through April 27. Zoom video

PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday extended a stay-at-home order implemented last week through April 27 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The council also unanimously prohibited short term rentals from operating in the city during the time the emergency declaration is in place, and urged residential and commercial landlords not to evict tenants who fail to pay rent in April or May due to the impact of the coronavirus.

Short-term rentals, such as such as residences offered through Airbnb, may still be offered to homeless people, for emergency responders and medical workers and those seeking to quarantine themselves if they have or at risk of getting COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.

Councilor Kimberly Cook, who pushed for the prohibition, said it is not intended to shutdown short-term rentals.

“It’s part of the emergency proclamation and will only be in effect through the emergency proclamation,” Cook said.

Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said the no eviction request does not prevent evicting tenants for other reasons.

The extended stay-at-home order prohibits public gatherings of more than 10 people and shuts down all storefronts of non-essential businesses to employees, customers and the public. Workers are allowed access to the closed businesses to pick up mail or pay bills.

Grocery stores, pharmacies, medical offices, hardware stores and other businesses that provide essential services will remain open.

Restaurants and similar establishments are permitted to offer takeout, delivery or drive-through options for customers as long as the public is not accessing the building and everyone is practicing social distancing.

Councilor Belinda Ray unsuccessfully tried to get her colleagues to relax the rules to allow non-food and drink businesses in the city to offer pick-up options.

“No one is going to thrive in this arrangement, but they may just survive if we give them this option,” she said.

“If we don’t extend this, I fear we are going to find a lot of our small businesses are going to have to shut down,” Ray added.

“It seems to me we should be tightening things up more so than relaxing things,” Councilor Nick Mavodones said. “As much as I’d like to see businesses have an opportunity to have a level playing field and be open in some fashion, all the data I am reading and seeing seems like we should be tightening.”

Mayor Kate Snyder also opposed Ray’s suggestion.

The definition of  “essential business”  may change. The council is expected to meet April 13 to compare Portland’s list of essential businesses with the one provided by Gov. Janet Mills to see if Portland’s list should be amended.

City Manager Jon Jennings warned councilors about adopting the governor’s list.

“We are dealing with an enormous problem in Cumberland and York counties with community spread of the virus, so we need to be much more restrictive in our thinking,” he said.

As of early Tuesday morning, the Maine Center for Disease Control reported that Maine has had 275 people test positive for the virus, including 154 in Cumberland County. Jennings said six city workers – an India Street Clinic worker, two police officers, two general assistance employees and a firefighter – have tested positive. Forty-one people in Maine have recovered from the virus and three have died.

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