Takeout alcohol eyed; COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights touted
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine lawmakers are considering a proposal to extend takeout alcohol through September 2022.
Restaurants and bars in Maine have been allowed to sell alcohol via takeout and delivery service during the coronavirus pandemic as long as liquor is accompanied by a food order. Democratic Sen. Louis Luchini of Ellsworth has proposed extending the provision until Sept. 10, 2022.
The Maine Legislature's Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted Feb. 17 to approve the proposal, which must now go before the full Legislature.
Luchini's proposal would also allow Maine distilleries, including small distilleries that operate tasting rooms but lack on-site retail businesses, to sell spirits via takeout and delivery. Those businesses would be able to sell the products regardless of a food order, Maine Democrats said.
Greg Dugal of Hospitality Maine said in testimony about the bill that “it will be years before restaurateurs get back to the level of business they once had.” That means the extension of the takeout alcohol provision is necessary to keep businesses afloat, he said.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills used a March 2020 executive order to permit takeout alcohol sales. Loss of the ability to sell takeout alcohol because of the expiration of the order could be “devastating,” Dugal said.
In other Maine virus news:
The positivity rate in Maine is continuing to trend downward.
The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 1.15%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 3.38% on Feb. 8 to 1.15% on Feb. 22.
“We're doing more testing now with a lower positivity rate,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “That means I have even more confidence that the positivity rate, and the reductions we have seen in recent weeks, are real.”
Maine health authorities have reported more than 43,000 positive cases of the virus and 660 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
PATIENT BILL OF RIGHTS
Supporters of a proposed “COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights” for Maine made the case for the bill at a Tuesday public hearing.
The proposal is designed to “require state-regulated health insurance companies to cover COVID-19 screening, testing and immunization at no cost to the patient,” the Maine Legislature Office of the Presiding Officers said Tuesday. A pair of high-ranking Democrats, Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford, touted the proposal.
The proposal “will bring us closer to a world where we can hug our loved ones, a world where we can gather with friends in celebration or in sorrow and a world where we can simply be together in-person again,” Jackson said.
The proposal will be subject to work sessions in committee in the coming weeks.
University of Maine will host football games at its home stadium this year, the school's president said Tuesday.
University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy said she has examined the 2021 spring football season game operating plans and approved the Black Bears to host games at Alfond Stadium. Spectators will not be allowed, the university said.
The home portion of the spring season is scheduled to begin on March 13 with a game against UAlbany.
This story has been corrected with the accurate spelling of Joan Ferrini-Mundy’s name.