The Legislative Council voted 8-0 to repeal the State House mask mandate on Thursday.

The 10-member panel of legislative leaders agreed to the compromise, which will go into effect on Monday, in less than 10 minutes, marking a quiet end to at least one part of a two-year debate over how to do the state’s business in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

State House employees will be glad to get rid of the masks, said Sen. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner.

“There’s people around there every day when I go up and down the halls who are employees there asking me when can we remove these things,” Timberlake told fellow members of the council on Thursday during a virtual meeting.

The committee agreed to tie State House masking policy to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s risk assessment for schools in Kennebec County, the seat of state government. If the risk of COVID-19 spread is green or yellow – low to elevated – masking is not required.

The Maine CDC’s assessment for Kennebec County is now yellow, indicating an elevated transmission risk.


If the risk assessment goes red, indicating a high risk of COVID-19 spread, then the council will meet again to consider reinstituting the mandate. It wants the flexibility to confirm the risk assessment is based on true risk, or if it was an artificial spike caused by a data backlog.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Legislature has argued over appropriate mask and shield policies, safe places to meet and committee meeting protocol, including debates over how big a shield must be and its shape before it qualifies as a safe mask substitute.

The council preserved the State House mask mandate even after Gov. Janet Mills rescinded the state’s indoor masking mandate, angering many Republicans, including some who lost their committee assignments last year after protesting the mask rule.

The council did not address committee meeting protocol on Thursday. Republicans want committee work to be done in person, but Democrats have preferred virtual meetings, arguing they are safer. A few committees began experimenting with hybrid meetings last week.

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