State says uptick in health hazard notifications is not tied to Millinocket wedding outbreak

As Maine prepares to enter Stage 4 of reopening, health officials are also issuing more health citations. Gov. Mills said during a media briefing Tuesday the state has issued 27 imminent health hazard notifications. The Big Moose Inn in Millinocket, host of the wedding reception now linked to nearly 180 cases of COVID-19, was only the fourth Maine business to be cited. Since then, 23 businesses have been issued imminent health hazard notifications from the Maine CDC’s health inspection program. Seven had licenses temporarily suspended, accused of failing to address infractions such as lack of masks for staff and customers, inadequate distancing, exceeding capacity and not collecting information for contact tracing. When asked if the outbreak following the Millinocket wedding prompted more aggressive enforcement, CDC communications director Robert Long said, in part, “No, with new requirements for establishments now in place as a result of the pandemic, an increase in enforcement action relative to the months when many Maine dining and lodging establishments were closed is not unexpected.”The enforcement comes at an interesting time. Bars are set to reopen next month. Indoor capacity limits increase next week. Hospitality industry experts such as attorney Brandon Mazer are reconsidering licensing for clients. One is planning to put in a kitchen in case bar closures return. “He doesn’t expect to be the next five star location but he wants to comply and now that these new regs came out he’s questioning if that was still the right move,” said Mazer. Rules for bars and restaurants under Stage 4 restrict mingling between visitors. Mazer knows it’s not ideal but thinks compliance might be easier with more places for people to go. “Having additional places open, even if it is the slower season, will be safer for everyone. So, hopefully that takes the pinch of these people that are trying to keep up for everybody,” said Mazer. Some of the businesses cited, who declined to speak on camera, felt as though the enforcement is arbitrary. Robert Long of the CDC, also said, “In recent weeks, HIP has continued to respond to complaints and taken appropriate action following investigation when compliance is not achieved. This does not signal a change.”

As Maine prepares to enter Stage 4 of reopening, health officials are also issuing more health citations.

Gov. Mills said during a media briefing Tuesday the state has issued 27 imminent health hazard notifications.

Advertisement

The Big Moose Inn in Millinocket, host of the wedding reception now linked to nearly 180 cases of COVID-19, was only the fourth Maine business to be cited.

Since then, 23 businesses have been issued imminent health hazard notifications from the Maine CDC’s health inspection program.

Seven had licenses temporarily suspended, accused of failing to address infractions such as lack of masks for staff and customers, inadequate distancing, exceeding capacity and not collecting information for contact tracing.

When asked if the outbreak following the Millinocket wedding prompted more aggressive enforcement, CDC communications director Robert Long said, in part, “No, with new requirements for establishments now in place as a result of the pandemic, an increase in enforcement action relative to the months when many Maine dining and lodging establishments were closed is not unexpected.”

The enforcement comes at an interesting time. Bars are set to reopen next month. Indoor capacity limits increase next week. Hospitality industry experts such as attorney Brandon Mazer are reconsidering licensing for clients. One is planning to put in a kitchen in case bar closures return.

“He doesn’t expect to be the next five star location but he wants to comply and now that these new regs came out he’s questioning if that was still the right move,” said Mazer.

Rules for bars and restaurants under Stage 4 restrict mingling between visitors. Mazer knows it’s not ideal but thinks compliance might be easier with more places for people to go.

“Having additional places open, even if it is the slower season, will be safer for everyone. So, hopefully that takes the pinch of these people that are trying to keep up for everybody,” said Mazer.

Some of the businesses cited, who declined to speak on camera, felt as though the enforcement is arbitrary.

Robert Long of the CDC, also said, “In recent weeks, HIP has continued to respond to complaints and taken appropriate action following investigation when compliance is not achieved. This does not signal a change.”