June is here. In Maine, that usually means days at camp, visits to the beach, hikes, bonfires and lobster dinners. This year, June also means a new stage in the state’s reopening plan. With a pandemic going on around us, it’s hard to know exactly how to act or how to spend our time, but there is still a lot to do here in Maine that can help pass your time and keep us all safe.

As of June 1, Maine entered Stage 2 of the plan to reopen the economy. I want to make sure you know what this new stage means for you. Under Stage 2, you are still asked to stay six feet apart from people outside of your household and to wear a mask in places that are densely populated, or where it is difficult to maintain distance. When you visit retail establishments, there will still be limits on how many people can be in the space, so continue to expect lines at the grocery store, but more establishments will be allowed to open up, all of which have received guidance from Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development on how to open safely.

In this new stage, there is also more flexibility for groups of up to 50 people to be in one space, again presuming it’s a space where people can be six feet apart. That means you can sit outside at a restaurant at a safe distance from others or have a barbeque in your backyard if space allows. I hope these changes instill some normalcy in our lives and provide some support for our economy, but we must continue to be vigilant about protecting public health.

One reason that this loosening of restrictions is possible is because of an increase in Maine’s ability to test for COVID-19. On May 7, Gov. Mills made an announcement that has allowed for a major expansion of our testing capabilities. The administration has partnered with Maine-based IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. to purchase enough of the company’s recently authorized COVID-19 testing kits to more than triple the State’s testing capacity. The breakthrough means that anyone in Maine suspected of having COVID-19 can now receive a test. This type of public-private collaboration is welcome news for all of us and is crucial to reopening our economy safely.

Maine’s community colleges have provided our 2020 high school graduates with an awesome gift, free summer courses! Students interested in getting a head start on their college career are eligible to choose from online college-level classes in English, math, sciences, languages, psychology, history, digital photography, creative writing and more. This is a fantastic way for our students to spend some time this summer. More information and details on how to register are available on Maine’s Community Colleges website.

There’s no denying we’re living through an incredibly hard time that is having different and difficult impacts on everyone. But in the days ahead, I hope you are able to find moments of joy for yourself and your family. If there’s anything I can do to help you, whether related to the pandemic or not, I am available at 207-468-0050 or [email protected] Please feel free to reach out.

Rep. Shawn A. Babine is serving in his first term in the Maine House of Representatives, representing the coastal region of Scarborough, District 29. He serves on the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Innovation Development Economic Activity and Commerce.

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