Part of an occasional series answering readers’ questions about Maine. 

Q: I haven’t found where libraries fall into the state’s reopening plan. When can they reopen?

A: Libraries are one of the many business and service sectors not listed anywhere in the reopening plan, so you are not the only one who is perplexed.

Generally, those sectors not listed are not yet scheduled for reopening and either will have to wait until later this summer or are working with the state to set up a sector-specific reopening plan.

Librarians across Maine are talking with one another and state officials about how to reopen, but they’re not anticipating that will happen until phase 2 or 3 of the state’s reopening plan. That means reopening June, 1 at the earliest.

The Maine State Library and Maine Library Association are working with the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to determine exactly how and when libraries can safely reopen, according to Jennifer Alvino, a library director in Windham and president of the library association.

A task force that includes representatives of the Maine State Library, Maine Library Association and other librarians is being formed to develop guidelines for libraries to safely welcome back patrons. That is a complicated task, Alvino says, because libraries are community gathering spaces where people touch paper materials that can’t be easily disinfected. That could mean that some libraries might begin offering curbside pickup, hold off on special events, limit the number of people in the library or make other modifications to keep library staff and patrons safe.

Q: Does the reopening order mean older citizens or those at risk are no longer mandated to stay home?

A: No. In fact, the stay-at-home order has been extended through May 30.

The new order to start the reopening process does allow some additional Mainers to leave home and go to work, while others can now leave home for a wider array of services beyond just the essentials, such as grocery stores, hardware stores and hospitals.

Among other things, you can now also leave home to get a haircut or a car wash or play golf.

But all Mainers, and especially older people or those with underlying medical conditions, are still under a general stay-at-home order to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

While active cases have declined, Maine is still seeing outbreaks of the virus and Mainers are still at risk, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said Thursday. It is still wise for everyone to stay home as much as possible, and older folks should remain especially careful to limit their exposure to people outside their households, he warned.

The idea behind the reopening plan is to gradually leave our homes so Maine’s infections continue to decline, and not rise again.

Q: Can folks from away go to a grocery story or an open park during their 14-day quarantine period?

A: The order requiring people arriving in Maine to self-quarantine for 14 days says they must stay indoors “except when engaging in essential services.”

Essential services includes grocery shopping, but does not include taking a walk or visiting a park. The order also refers to guidance posted by the Maine CDC, which is even more restrictive:

“To self-quarantine follow these precautions: Stay at home for 14 days. Monitor for fever (take temperature two times per day), cough, or trouble breathing. Practice social distancing. Stay home (do not go to work or school), do not take public transportation or ride-shares. … You cannot go to public places including grocery stores or other essential personal reasons, except to seek emergency medical care. Plan to bring food for 14 days with you or arrange to have it delivered.”

Q: I live in Maine but must cross the state border for work. Do I have to quarantine?

A:  There is no order to quarantine for people who make short trips back and forth across the border for work, according to the Maine CDC.

Travel should be limited to essential trips, such as commuting to permitted workplaces or grocery shopping.

This is not the same as someone visiting Maine or returning from a long-term winter stay in another state, the Maine CDC says. Those people are permitted to come, but are required to quarantine upon arrival for 14 days, or for as long as they are here if they don’t stay that long.

The state continues to discourage visitors from coming to Maine from  areas with widespread virus outbreaks.

  • The place we live in is an endless source of small mysteries. Whose idea was that? Where’d that come from? What’s up, when and why? Tell us what’s puzzling you about Maine or your local community using the form here. We’ll pick questions that have broad interest, find the answers and report back. So, got questions, Maine? We know you do.
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