Amid a rise of coronavirus cases in Maine, Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday she is extending a requirement directing restaurants and other businesses to close by 9 p.m.
The requirement, which was initially scheduled to expire Jan. 3, will continue until further notice, Mills said in a statement.
"With more people getting sick, going to the hospital, and dying from COVID-19 in Maine, it is clear we cannot afford to relax this rule now, especially as we wait to see the full impact of the holiday season on the rate of the virus transmission in our state," Mills said.
The early closure rule applies to all outdoor and indoor entertainment venues, performing arts venues, casinos, movie theaters, and businesses that provide seated food and drink. Those businesses also include social clubs, restaurants, bars and tasting rooms.
More on the Coronavirus in Maine
"Maintaining an early closing time for businesses will keep them open for the majority of their operating hours while curbing late night gatherings where we are more likely to lower our guard," Mills said. "I encourage all Maine people who want to sustain their favorite small business through these winter months to continue to order take out or delivery which is still allowed after closing time."
Maine's positivity rate for COVID-19 reached 5.43% over the past week, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state reported 590 new confirmed coronavirus cases Wednesday and one additional death. There have now been 334 confirmed deaths and 23,499 cases, according to the Maine CDC.
Director of the Maine CDC, Dr. Nirav Shah, said by limiting transmission now, "the more effective our ongoing vaccination effort will be."
"By limiting non-essential interactions, wearing masks in public, staying at least 6 feet apart, and washing hands frequently, we help keep the virus away from vulnerable people until they can be vaccinated," Shah said in a statement Wednesday.