Businesses are slowly starting to reopen in York County, and every weekend I see an influx of more and more cars driving around downtown. While we are not over the metaphorical coronavirus hump yet, Maine has seen improvements in our infection rates and more businesses have reopened with increased safety measures.

Sen. Susan Deschambault Courtesy photo

Based on what I have heard from our foremost infectious disease expert, head of Maine’s Center for Disease and Control Dr. Nirav Shah, as well as what I’ve observed and heard from friends and family, I want to share some recommendations and reminders for folks while York County reopens. You can read up on details about restarting Maine’s economy at www.maine.gov/covid19/restartingmaine.com.

Even though businesses are reopening, it is still important to wear face masks in public, in stores and when walking to your table at a restaurant. Stores have signs posted about this requirement. Wearing a face mask is not an isolated decision. The purpose of it is to protect our community. When we put on a mask in a public space or when we walk into a store, it is a sign of respect, for the employees and for our fellow guests.

Many of our normal customs have drastically changed because of the coronavirus, and staff at restaurants and stores know that too. Everyone is experiencing stress in some way or another, and we can make it a little easier for each other if we try to be as cooperative as possible. Yes, if we get up from our table to use the bathroom at a restaurant, we’ll have to put our mask back on.

When we want to enter into a store, but there’s a wait outside because of the limited capacity, we can be understanding and patient. Finally, for folks who are lucky enough to continue to have a job and are able to support themselves during this time, remember to tip well and to tip often. Many communities in York County rely on the booming tourist season every summer for their hourly jobs, and businesses make most of their revenue during this time as well. If we tip well, we show support for those who are preparing our food, making our coffee or washing our cars.

50 Local in downtown Kennebunk. Dan King photo

I am very impressed with how our communities have responded so quickly to this crisis to help small businesses and provide resources for consumers.

The Chamber of Commerce of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel created a website to inform folks about which businesses are officially open at www.gokennebunks.com/pages/uncategorized/covid-19-back-in-business. This is a smart resource to share with friends, neighbors and people from away who are considering coming to York County for a summer excursion.

Don’t feel like going out to eat? Participate in Operation Takeout. The Chamber of Commerce has compiled a list of all the restaurants that are currently offering takeout or delivery at www.kennebunk.com/pages/living/operation-takeout.

The Biddeford and Saco Chamber of Commerce has also accumulated a list of restaurants that are open for dining in, takeout or delivery. You can access this list here: https://bit.ly/restaurantsopening.

Another great way to support our beloved small businesses right now is to buy gift certificates with the Pay It Forward campaign.

Some restaurants are even offering a reduced rate for the amount you put on your card. Buying a gift card goes a long way and it shows these small businesses that you care about the future of their establishment, about the livelihoods of their employees, and their ability to invest in safety measures for their customers and staff. For more information about which businesses are participating in this gift card deal, go to www.PayItForwardMaine.com. The website also has more resources about creative ways to support small businesses at this time. I’d really encourage you to check it out and share it.

Let’s all commit to supporting our small businesses this summer and show Maine just how strong York County is.

Susan Deschambault is state senator representing Senate District 32, Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman.

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