The Mills administration announced Tuesday Maine would increase limits on indoor seating and expand its mandate on face coverings statewide as winter approaches and people move indoors.

The executive order moves Maine into Stage 4 of its reopening plan amid the coronavirus pandemic. The new phase will begin Tuesday, Oct. 13.

"With winter weather approaching, we must support businesses across the state as outdoor service becomes less viable and people move inside. This expanded capacity, along with continued health and safety precautions, is a prudent step forward that balances public health and economic health,” Mills said in a news release.  

The move comes as numbers look good in Maine. Adjusted for population, the state has among the lowest rates of new hospitalizations, new cases, and deaths related to COVID-19. But Mills warned that precautions are still necessary to keep the state running.

"This virus is still very much with us all across the state and wearing a face covering, staying six feet apart, avoiding large gatherings, and washing our hands often is key to keeping Maine schools and businesses open and keeping Maine people healthy."

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The executive order increases limits on indoor seating to 50 percent capacity of permitted occupancy, or 100 people – whichever is less. Outdoor gatherings will remain at 100 people.

The order also sets a Monday, Nov. 2 opening date for bars and tasting rooms. Bars will have to abide by specific public safety guidelines, including no live singing or open dance floors.

Mills said, with people moving inside, the order also strengthens face covering requirements -- making them mandatory statewide. Before, face coverings only were required in coastal counties and populous areas.

You may watch Tuesday's news conference below.

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