The city manager in South Portland has ordered residents to stay at home except for permitted activities starting Friday, a decision that follows a similar move in neighboring Portland two days ago.

“We ask for the public’s cooperation during this period so we can help ensure our health and safety and not overwhelm first responders and health professionals,” City Manager Scott Morelli said in a press release. “Undertaking these actions now will ‘flatten the curve’ and help our City and State get through this crisis safer and quicker.”

The order will take effect at noon Friday, and it does not have an official end date.

“It will be in place for as long as necessary, but as short as possible,” Morelli said in an interview.

The city’s order reinforced the restrictions announced by Gov. Janet Mills earlier this week. She closed nonessential public-facing businesses for two weeks starting Wednesday. So that decision has already shut down businesses like shopping malls, fitness centers and hair salons.

But the governor’s executive order allowed nonessential businesses to continue operations that did not require in-person contact with customers or gatherings. Morelli said the city’s stay-at-home order is also not meant to prevent those people from going to their jobs.

“The regulation is not intended to restrict you from going to and from your work,” he said.

Rather, the goal is to encourage people to stay home unless they really need to go out.

“We really haven’t seen the worst of the coronavirus in Maine, and Cumberland County is the hotbed in Maine for the number of confirmed cases,” Morelli said. “And if our trend follows what other states such as Massachusetts have seen, we’re going to see continually increasing cases. We have the opportunity right now to enact measures that will help prevent the spread of the virus.”

Residents will still be allowed to leave their homes for certain reasons defined by the order. People can seek medical care, shop for groceries, pick up their prescriptions and go to their jobs in essential services.

Outdoor activity is also allowed, and exercise is one reason to leave home. City parks and beaches remain open. But Morelli said people will be prohibited from using playground and outdoor fitness equipment at those parks, beaches or recreation facilities.

“City Manager Morelli said that City staff will continue to monitor these locations and may take future action, such as completely closing them, if social distancing is not being carefully followed,” the press release said.

The city manager also imposed additional restrictions on visitors to senior care facilities and barred the use of reusable bags at all retail establishments.

The full order, as well as the answers to frequently asked questions, is available on the city’s website at southportland.org/coronavirus-covid-19.

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