SOUTH PORTLAND — After Mayor Katherine Lewis declared a state of emergency on March 24 regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, South Portland City Manager Scott Morelli issued four emergency regulations on March 26.

A tent set up outside Intermed in South Portland earlier in March. Shawn Patrick Ouellette photo/Press Herald) Buy this Photo

According to a press release from the city, effective March 27, the four regulations include, “A requirement to stay at home or place of residence; prohibiting the use of playground and outdoor fitness equipment at city parks, beaches and outdoor recreation facilities; restrictions on visitors to senior care facilities; and prohibiting the use of reusable bags at all retail establishments.”

“All of these actions, combined with prior city decisions to cancel in-person meetings, close city facilities to the public, and order non-essential municipal employees to work from home, will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in South Portland and save lives,” Morelli said. “We ask for the public’s cooperation during this period so they we can help ensure our health and safety and not overwhelm our first responders and health professionals. Undertaking these actions now will ‘flatten the curve’ and help our city and state get through this crisis safer and quicker.”

The requirement to stay at home is not a shelter-in-place order, the press release clarified. A shelter-in-place order would mean that residents could not leave a location until given clearance, but the stay-at-home requirement would let residents leave homes for specific reasons.

There are five essential activities the press release said that South Portland residents may leave their homes to do under the stay-at-home requirement, which are health and safety, necessary supplies and services, certain types of work, to take care of others, and outdoor activity.

The press release added that those participating in outdoor activity should continue to engage in social distancing.

According to the press release, “City parks, beaches, and outdoor recreation facilities owned and operated by the city for outdoor activity
remain open for the time being. However, use of outdoor fitness equipment (e.g., pull-up bars) and playground equipment (e.g., play systems, climbing equipment, swing sets, and slides) are prohibited.

“This includes playground equipment at any city operated school. Such equipment is antithetical to social distancing and studies indicate that the coronavirus can live on these surfaces for up to three days, thus easily spreading the COVID-19 disease to children.”

The restriction on visits to senior care facilities was implemented to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading to those older than 60, a group that has been called an at-risk population by the CDC, said the release.

“Hence, this regulation restricts visitors to all residential care, assisted living, long-term care, age 55 and over senior living, and similar type residential facilities serving seniors to only those providing COVID-19 essential business and operations-related activities,” said the press release. “Local Health Officer Josh Pobrislo notes that he has been in touch with many of these facilities and that they are already putting in place these types of restrictions.”

The fourth regulation regarding the ban on reusable bags is an effort to prevent spreading germs, which recent studies have shown bags containing harmful bacteria if not washed and stored properly, said the press release. Stores in South Portland will not charge the city-implemented 5-cent fee on single-use bags at this time.

“Residents are encouraged to obtain the latest information from the Maine CDC and U.S. Centers for Disease
Control,” said the release. “We also recommend taking precautionary measures like a person would for cold and the flu. Examples include staying home when you are sick, covering your cough and sneeze (into your arm), and practicing good hand washing with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds.”

For more information the regulations and emergency declaration, a FAQ page is available at  www.southportland.org/files/2415/8532/1910/South_Portland_Emergency_Regulation_FAQs.pdf

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