PORTLAND — City Manager Jon Jennings and Mayor Kate Snyder are mandating that Portland residents stay in their homes for five days beginning late Wednesday afternoon in an effort to slow the community spread of the coronavirus.

The emergency action, which goes into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, orders all non-essential businesses to close their physical operations, and orders residents to shelter in place unless getting food, medicine and other necessary items.

“I don’t take this action lightly,” Jennings said at a March 24 press conference. “I understand the impact it will have on individuals and businesses, but I am compelled to take this action as positive cases (of the virus) continue to rise.”

Mayor Kate Snyder said the action builds on work being done at the state level.

“What this is all intended to do, what the work of the governor is intended to do, is make sure we are doing everything we can as a city, a region and a state to slow the spread of this virus,” she said.

Essential businesses include grocery stores, convenience store/gas stations, food processors, pharmacies, medical facilities, post offices, insurance agencies, banks, hardware stores, animal shelters, plumbers/electricians/maintenance workers and public transportation and lodging establishments. Restaurants are allowed to remain open, but only to provide take-out, delivery or drive-through.

Outdoor exercise and dog walking are allowed, but individuals are encouraged to not use city playgrounds and keep at least 6 feet apart from people at city parks and trails.

Violations of the shelter in place order are punishable by a fine of up to $500 per person or business for each infraction.

As of Tuesday, The Maine Center for Disease Control was reporting 118 cases in the state of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Those cases include 74 in Cumberland County. Maine’s first confirmed case was reported March 12.

Five city workers have tested positive for COVID-19: an employee of the India Street health clinic, which was closed but will reopen next week, two employees in the general assistance office and two police officers. The general assistance office, Jennings said, is closed to the public, but is still processing applications.

Jennings said the coronoavirus has had a major impact on the municipal budget process.

“We put a good budget together for residents, but we’ve seen in the last 12 days a complete collapse in our revenue,” he said.

This means the budget process will have to start over again.

“We are prepared to do that, but right now is not the time. The governor and the legislature have given us leeway. We are in emergency mode right now and will get to (the budget) eventually,” he said.

The City Council is expected to discuss extend the shelter in place order at a virtual meeting Monday, March 30, at 5 p.m.

 

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