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Town Council declares state of emergency, orders non-essential businesses closed through May 1

A state of emergency has been declared by the town of Cape Elizabeth, and non-essential services have been ordered closed in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 effective 6 p.m. Thursday, March 26, 2020.

Town councilors approved emergency regulations in a special meeting conducted online March 25. They will remain in effect until 6 p.m. Friday, May 1, unless extended by council vote.

The regulations are modeled after those adopted in other Maine towns, but stop short of mandating residents shelter-in-place as some other communities have.

Instead, the Cape Elizabeth regulations strongly encourage all residents of, temporary residents and visitors to Cape Elizabeth to remain in their places of residence or abode, except to access COVID 19 essential services, exercise and dog-walking. Cape Elizabeth's regulations also encourage, but do not mandate, that residents follow steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including eliminating all unnecessary gatherings, unnecessary travel, and all social events, and maintaining six feet from other persons, even outdoors.

The regulations include a list of 26 services deemed "essential" that will be permitted to stay open. These include health-care facilities, pharmacies, grocery stores and food markets, gas stations, agricultural businesses, government services like public safety and trash collection, childcare centers, news agencies, veterinary offices and other essential services.

Ordered to close are auditoriums, large conference rooms, meeting halls, theaters, gyms and fitness centers, private clubs, yoga studios and indoor cycling studios. Included specifically in the prohibition are short-term rentals of private property. "Short-term rentals are hereby declared a non-essential service and shall not continue to operate while said Proclamation Declaring State of Emergency, remains in effect," the regulations say.

Hotels were included in the draft list of exempted businesses the council considered but were removed to be consistent with short-term rentals.

Restaurants will be allowed to deliver food or curbside takeout; and schools that serve free food will be allowed to continue food service for pickup or take-away. Employees of non-essential businesses may work from home. One employee may work in a non-essential workplace as long as no customers enter the building.