In a sign that life across New England is turned upside-down, Maine cities like Portland and Bangor were quiet on St. Patrick’s Day with curfews in place to prevent celebrations from spreading COVID-19.
While shamrocks did adorn their windows, bars with celebrations planned like Bull Feeney’s and Three Dollar Deweys had locked doors on Tuesday after Portland’s city government ordered all gathering places, like restaurants and bars, closed from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. for everything except take-out.
“This is unprecedented,” said Tina Cromwell, owner of Bam Bam Bakery on Commercial Street, who did decide to open on Tuesday.
“It’s really sad actually,” she explained. “It’s a tradition so many people participate in, it’s got to be a huge financial loss for these guys.”
The city’s move followed requests from Maine’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state’s governor for Mainers to social distance as much as possible.
In a Tuesday morning briefing in Augusta, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah announced the state’s positive COVID-19 cases had climbed to 32 with three people hospitalized.
Asked whether new recommendations to restrict group activity even further would be announced, such as a shut down of construction sites, Shah said, “It is under consideration.”
One place that will, after Tuesday, have fewer people coming and going is Maine’s State House.
Lawmakers met one last time before adjourning for an indefinite period, with large bottles of hand sanitizer placed prominently outside chamber doors.
One of the matters they were considering in emergency legislation was how to proceed with Maine’s primary, scheduled for June 9 which includes, among other races, votes on candidates for U.S. Senate.
According to Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, the legislature could decide Tuesday to provide “clarity” on options like an all-mail primary. It would have to be decided on in a matter of weeks, since delaying the primary is not his preferred option.
“If we had to move the date, that would be the choice of last resort,” Dunlap said.
In addition to potential voting changes, the secretary of state has also ordered all Bureau of Motor Vehicles offices in Maine closed.
Maine’s Public Utilities Commission had also ordered all utilities to halt cutting off services like water, electricity and natural gas until further notice.
Back in Portland, a family from Arizona was lamenting a side trip to Portland where they thought they’d find open bars after closures in Boston, part of a vacation to celebrate a graduation.
“We planned the trip for at least eight months, said Jodi Ruehs. “We’re wasting time.”
The Ruehses planned to fly back to Arizona early because of activity options canceled by the virus.
Going forward, Portland will follow a model observed concurrently in Bangor, with a reduced curfew for bars and restaurants from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
In Portland, that restriction will be in place until at least Saturday.