Betsy Hooper strolled in Portland’s Baxter Woods on Friday afternoon, blue plaid mask securely over her nose and mouth.

Betsy Hooper pauses in Baxter Woods in Portland Friday and says she is all for the governor’s new mask mandate.  Matt Byrne/Staff Writer

The new requirement that Mainers keep their masks on in all public places is fine with the 64-year-old retired architect if that’s what it takes to stop a surge of virus cases and help the state return to normal.

“If that’s the price to get people to mask up, that’s what we have to do,” Hooper said. “Just wear the damn mask!”

Mainers in communities from Waterville to Brunswick to Saco said Friday that they understood the need for the stronger mandate and agree with the message that everyone should be more vigilant and take responsibility for keeping each other safe.

Some said they will strictly follow the new rule, even if that means wearing a mask when no one else is around.

But many also wondered if the mandate is really supposed to be taken literally in all circumstances – even when strolling alone on a wide beach or a forest trail.

And while they hope the order leads to more mask wearing in general and helps stop the surge of infections, some admitted they will still take their masks off when it doesn’t seem to make sense to wear them.

“If I’m out hiking with my family and no one is around, are we supposed to wear masks then?” said Erika Nyhus of Brunswick. Nyhus, 40, said she doesn’t have a problem with wearing a mask everywhere in public, but she just wonders how literal the mandate is meant to be.

Her husband, Ben Walsh, 37, said the couple and their two young children were walking in their neighborhood Friday morning and only saw one other person, who was 30 feet away. “It seems quite silly to be wearing masks in that situation,” he said.

Still, both said they understood the reasoning behind a stricter mandate.

“Maybe it’s like that old negotiation tactic where you ask for $10 knowing you’ll only get $5,” Walsh said. “Maybe the people who haven’t been wearing masks will say, ‘This is too far, but I guess I’ll wear it in the grocery store at least.’”

Some people asked about the mask mandate on Friday didn’t want to comment because they weren’t wearing a mask, even if they agreed with the need for the mandate in general.

One of those was a young man shooting baskets at an empty basketball court in Portland on Friday. The mandate should have been issued months ago, he said, “because on a large scale, people tend not to follow the rules. … I understand I’m contradicting the rules right now.”

Chelsea Risser, walking at East End Beach in Portland on Friday, wasn’t aware of the governor’s mask mandate but thinks it is a good idea. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Chelsea Risser, 26, pulled on her mask as a reporter approached her at Portland’s East End Beach.

Risser was unaware of the governor’s latest order about masks, but said she is concerned about the rising case counts in Maine and thinks the mandate is a good idea.

Stephanie Cotsirilos, 73, also welcomed the mandate.

“I think mask wearing and the other precautions that the Maine CDC are offering are the keys until we have fully effective therapeutics,” said Cotsirilos, who does consulting work for nonprofit organizations. “It’s the key to our survival, I think.”

Cotsirilos likened the mandate to requirements from World War II when parts of the country were placed under mandatory blackout orders as a precaution against air raids by enemy aircraft. Those mandates to shut off lights or hang dark curtains were not optional, she said.

But Cotsirilos also said she also wants to be respectful of people who choose not to wear masks. “If anything has shown us that we need to understand each other better, it’s this ongoing election.”

Jeanne Stegner, walking her Siberian husky, King, at East End Beach on Friday, says she is comfortable with the governor’s new mask mandate. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Jeanne Stegner, 26, who was walking along East End Beach with her Siberian husky, King, said she feels comfortable with the mandate, especially because of her job. She works in insurance and deals with short-term disability claims brought on by coronavirus infections, and sees the intimate details of how people’s lives change because of the virus.

“I think that makes me even more hyper-aware,” Stegner said.

Kathleen Kramer, 32, who works in marketing for L.L. Bean, agrees with the mandate, but is a little unsure on how to apply it to outdoor areas.

“I think it’s good to be overly cautious, but sometimes it’s confusing where it needs to be worn in outdoor spaces.”

Kathleen Kramer, with her dog, Blue, at Portland’s East End Beach Friday, said she didn’t bring her mask when walking her dog in the past, but will now that masks are mandatory in all public places. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

As she stood near the water at East End Beach with her dog, Blue, and a colorful, patterned mask pulled over her mouth and nose, Kramer said she had never considered bringing a mask with her when she walks the dog.

“Now, I take it with me,” she said.

Dozens of people ate lunch Friday on the mall in Brunswick, while others browsed tables set up for the weekly farmer’s market. Mask compliance was near-universal, except for people who were eating.

Becky Smith of Bath has no problem with a strict mask mandate. “I think it’s a good thing, it’s important,” she said.

Smith, 66, still sees people without masks in public more often than she’d like. “I think they think they are invincible,” she said. “Until it affects them right?”

In Saco, a steady stream of people headed onto Ferry Beach on Friday. All had masks on as they walked past signs reminding people to wear them, but some removed them as they moved down the beach.

Marilee Fakovy, a corporate office manager from Saco who was walking her dog, Toby, admitted she took her mask off for a few minutes when she was alone on the beach, but put it back on before walking near others. She said she welcomed the new mask mandate, which she already follows for the most part.

“It’s protecting myself and everyone else around here,” she said. “It’s the most humane thing to do.”

In the Ocean Park section of Old Orchard Beach, Stephanie Marshall wore a black-and-white plaid mask as she sat on a bench chatting with a friend. Marshall, who is retired and in her 70s, said she had not been keeping the mask on when walking alone in her neighborhood, but she will now.

“I’m all for it,” she said.

On Old Orchard Beach, Brittney Hinkley of Westbrook sat in a chair while her 4- and 6-year-old sons played in the sand in front of her. Nobody else was within 50 yards of the family, and none of them wore masks. Hinkley said they always wear masks in stores or when they’re near other people, but also like to get outside to have a break from mask wearing.

“It’s a tough one,” said Hinkley, a 30-year-old surgical technologist at Maine Medical Center. “I know (the mandate) is regardless of if you’re 6 feet away, but I feel if there’s enough distance, then we’re choosing not to wear one.”

In Waterville, Lesley Fowler and Linda Howe, both retired teachers, were going for a walk at the city’s Head of Falls park Friday morning. Both women wore masks. Fowler, 67, said she is very comfortable with masks being mandatory and wears one almost everywhere she goes, though not if she is walking in the woods alone.

“If I see people, I put it right on,” she said. “If I’m in a place where there are no people, like out in the woods, I don’t worry about it. But I feel really strongly, especially right now (about wearing masks).”

Howe, who lives in Bethel, also supports wearing masks but feels bad for people who can’t.

“There are also some people who are very anxious when they wear a mask,” she said. “It really puts them over the edge, although the science tells us we should wear them. So where do those people go? What’s going to happen to them?”

Briana Reeves, a customer service representative at a pharmacy, understands the need for the tighter restrictions, but doesn’t necessarily agree with wearing a mask everywhere, like at a table in a restaurant.

Reeves thinks one of the hardest parts will be getting children to comply. The executive orders on mask requirements state children under age 2 are not required to wear face coverings. Face coverings are recommended for children ages 2 to 4 and required in schools and childcare facilities for children ages 5 and over.

Reeves, of Fairfield, tries to get her 3-year-old daughter to wear a mask, but it can be difficult. “I have to try and explain that to her, like ‘Mommy has to wear hers and you have to wear yours everywhere we go,’” said Reeves, 26. “I think that’s the most difficult part, and them having to wear them at school.”

At the Waterville Walmart, Leo Barnett was crossing the parking lot without a mask Friday morning, but quickly put one on as a reporter approached. He said he doesn’t think it’s necessary to wear a mask in a parking lot or on the sidewalk, but will put it on if he gets close to another person.

“I don’t think it should be taken light-hearted because obviously the numbers are going up,” said Barnett, 60. “I kind of believe that precaution is good, but too much precaution is not good either.”

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