Compliance checks at businesses in the Old Port late Saturday resulted in no violations after Portland police stepped up patrols in response to reports of people flaunting virus restrictions regarding face coverings and social distancing.

Saturday night’s police canvas of businesses on Wharf Street and other areas of the popular nightlife district came after the city received social media images of large crowds of young people, many of them not wearing face coverings, standing less than six feet apart on Wharf Street in Portland’s Old Port district Friday night.

Wharf Street, which runs between Fore and Commercial streets, is home to numerous restaurants and bars.

Those photographs led to a crackdown by city police and code enforcement officers Saturday evening, but the sweep of the Old Port district businesses resulted in no violations or fines, according to Portland Police Department spokesman Lt. Robert Martin.

“Officers found that business owners were receptive to the city’s efforts and were committed to abiding by the governor’s order to maintain social distancing and following other safety guidelines,” Martin said in a statement issued Sunday evening.

Jessica Grondin, the city’s spokeswoman, said Sunday night that Portland will continue to watch gatherings on Wharf Street and elsewhere.

“We’ll continue to monitor and will address as needed,” Grondin said in an email.

In May, the Portland City Council voted to close sections of four downtown streets to traffic, including Wharf Street, to allow restaurants and shops the opportunity to expand into public spaces. The other affected streets included Exchange, Milk and Dana streets. The closures took effect June 1.

The decision allowed some businesses and retail stores to expand outdoor dining options and retail sales onto sidewalks, private parking lots and  parking spaces, otherwise known as parklets. Councilors called it an experiment that could be rescinded if business owners failed to comply with social distancing recommendations.

The city issued a stern warning on Saturday after several images of the crowds that gathered on Wharf Street were posted on social media sites. The city said in a news release that if businesses did not comply with the state’s COVID-19 reopening checklist the city would suspend outdoor dining privileges.

“Following multiple reports of violations from the public, the City will have two code enforcement officers plus the police department on Wharf Street tonight (Saturday) to enforce the state’s reopening plan,” Grondin said in the release. “If the regulations are not followed by businesses then the City will be forced to eliminate outdoor dining on Wharf Street and in other areas in which violations are found.”

City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau shared his views on his Facebook page, pleading with Old Port visitors to wear a face covering if they are unable to maintain a six-foot social distance. Thibodeau said he was responding to constituent complaints about people not wearing face masks Friday night.

“I have to plead with all of you. Don’t ruin this for all of us,” Thibodeau said on Saturday. “If you can’t social distance, wear a mask.”

Bonfire Country Bar, at 37 Wharf Street, issued a statement Sunday evening to News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ-TV) saying that social media photos of a crowd of people standing near their business Friday night were misleading. Photos taken at different angles show a crowd of people stretching down Wharf Street, not at the bar itself.

“The past 36 hours have brought a lot of feedback and attention to our business,” Bonfire’s press release reads. “From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic we have stayed current with the perplexing guidance and constant regulatory changes while preparing to return to our passion … service.”

“During early June we were proud of our city officials as they stood literally shoulder-to-shoulder on the steps of City Hall in a demonstration of unity. We are hopeful those officials will stand equally proud with us as we attempt to bring life back to Portland in a positive manner,” Bonfire’s statement said, adding that it recently opened its business with procedures that exceed mandatory requirements to keep its customers safe.

While Portland attempts to reopen its vibrant Old Port district, which historically has attracted large crowds of people on Friday and Saturday evenings, the rest of the state continues to see more positive cases, including an outbreak at Sedgewood Commons, a nursing home in Falmouth.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday reported 37 cases of the novel coronavirus, and no deaths.

The latest figures bring Maine’s case totals of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, to 3,191 over the course of the pandemic. Of those cases, 2,838 have been confirmed by testing and 353 are considered probable cases. The death toll is 104.

 

Subtracting numbers of people who have recovered – 2,577 – and died, there were 510 active cases on Sunday.

The Maine CDC confirmed on Saturday that a coronavirus outbreak had spread at Sedgewood Commons, a nursing home in Falmouth that serves residents with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The outbreak began in early June, the CDC said, and has since reached a total of 23 residents and 13 employees, News Center Maine (WCSH/WLBZ) reported.

An economic recovery committee advising Gov. Janet Mills this week discussed early recommendations that the state of Maine reopen schools and invest in broadband internet support. Mainers need to have child care options before they can go back to work, the committee said, and those who are working from home need better access to the internet.

The pandemic also has put pressure on socializing of the romantic variety, forcing couples to move in together, stay apart or even break up. Couples around the state told the Maine Sunday Telegram this week that the experience had taught them patience – and the ins and outs of dating over the video-chat platform Zoom.

Grocery stores in Maine and beyond are rebuilding their supply chains after COVID-19 disrupted the flow of meat to their shelves. Outbreaks at meatpacking plants around the country – including in Portland, Maine – contributed to a rise in meat prices, a Press Herald analysis found.

County by county, there were 476 cases in Androscoggin, 23 in Aroostook, 1,682 in Cumberland, 39 in Franklin, 16 in Hancock, 143 in Kennebec, 24 in Knox, 23 in Lincoln, 35 in Oxford, 105 in Penobscot, three in Piscataquis, 34 in Sagadahoc, 27 in Somerset, 55 in Waldo, two in Washington, and 499 in York.

By age, 7.3 percent of patients were under 20, whereas 15.1 percent were in their 20s, 15.3 percent were in their 30s, 15.6 percent were in their 40s, 16.9 percent were in their 50s, 12 percent were in their 60s, 8.6 percent were in their 70s and 9.2 percent were 80 or older.

Women still make up the slight majority of cases, at 51.6 percent.

Maine’s hospitals had 24 patients with COVID-19 – the same as on Saturday – of whom seven were in intensive care and five were on ventilators. There were 138 intensive care beds available of a statewide total 402, and 251 ventilators available of 319. There were also 441 alternative ventilators approved by the Food and Drug Administration to breathe for patients with aggressive cases.

Around the world on Sunday, there were 10.1 million cases of COVID-19 and 502,000 deaths. The United States had 2.6 million cases and 128,000 deaths, the most of any country.

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