Orbit Salon stylist Jacinta Poulin works on a client at the Lewiston salon Friday morning on the first day the business was allowed to re-open. Salons have a long list of measures they must take before they were able to re-open. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Outside the Hannaford supermaket on Friday afternoon, an older woman wearing a blue cloth face covering stood next to the line of people waiting to go into the store. 

“Everybody is supposed to wear a face covering when they go into the store today,” the woman said to a man who had just joined the line. 

“Got one right here,” the man said, holding up a face covering he’d been holding at his side. 

“But you’re supposed to be wearing it,” the woman said. 

The line moved and the man escaped the conversation. When another man filled his spot in the line, the lady in the blue mask began speaking again. 

“Everybody’s supposed to be wearing a mask today,” she said. 

The man ignored her. A few moments later, his turn was up and he entered the store sans face covering. 

A store manager came outside to check in with his harried store clerks, who were tasked with keeping the lines moving. 

Had things been busy, the manager was asked? 

“Crazy,” he said.  

And on the first day that face coverings were made mandatory in public places, there had been a lot of grousing and complaining at the grocery store. 

“We’ve gotten a lot of feedback,” the manager said.  

Meanwhile, on Facebook, the Clinton Police Department posted a message on its page in the early part of the day. 

“Let me be very CLEAR,” declared the post. “Clinton Police Department is NOT the mask police! Masks are required IF proper separation isn’t possible. You are exempt if you have any medical problem that is aggravated by wearing a mask. Businesses can require you to wear a mask, but they cannot ask you anything about your medical problem and you do not have to show any.” 

It was that kind of day. 

The Clinton police post revealed one of the trickiest components of Gov. Janet Mills’ order declaring face coverings to be mandatory. The order — that face coverings be worn in places where social distance isn’t possible — is next to impossible to enforce because there are many exemptions. 

Inside the Hannaford supermarket Friday afternoon, dozens shopped and most were wearing face coverings. At about 3 p.m., only five people were seen without them inside the store. One man had forgotten his. Another said he couldn’t wear anything over his face because of breathing difficulties. 

There were some who went shopping without face coverings simply because they disagree — and vehemently — with Mills’ order.   

Whatever the reasons, when people were spotted without face coverings in public places, complaints started flying. 

The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office had seen a dozen complaints regarding Mills’ order by 9 a.m.  People were calling other police stations, too, and in such numbers, that there was no way that any department could possibly keep up with the volume of complaints. 

While police agencies are tasked with enforcing the new rules, most around the state were generally taking on a role of education — where possible, they would remind people about the governor’s order and advise them to keep it in mind while out in public. 

“We urge people to use common sense when deciding whether or not to wear a mask if social distancing is not possible,” Auburn Police Chief Jason Moen said. 

On the state level, public safety officials were reminding people that the governor’s order was new and that people were still adjusting. 

“It’s the first day,” Maine Public Safety Spokesman Stephen McCausland said. “And it’s Friday, which is shopping day for a lot of people. And the vast majority of Mainers have been abiding by the governor’s executive orders. And I suspect if there have been issues today with face coverings, it’s because people just didn’t understand.” 

As of Friday afternoon, no state agency had any kind of hotline set up to take complaints. Officials from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention did not respond to inquiries about whether such measures are planned. 

That left people with complaints about violators with few options: call the police, call the news agencies or just air their complaints on social media. 

Early in the day Friday, they complained to the Sun Journal. 

“Hannaford grocery stores are allowing people in without face masks,” wrote one woman. “My mask protects others, yet people not wearing masks have no respect for human lives. How do we report this? How do we make public stores step up and not allow people in not following the law set forth by our Governor?” 

“Shaw’s supermarket in Auburn is permitting customers to enter without masks on Friday, May 1,” wrote another. 

A third sent the Sun Journal an email complaining that a local furniture business was sending out delivery workers without gloves, masks or hand sanitizer. 

According to McCausland, if people want to report others for failing to comply with Mills’ order, it will be police handling those calls.  

“Any law enforcement agency can enforce that,” McCausland said. “Local, county or state. And, the first task that law enforcement is doing, primarily, is educating.” 

Throughout the day, heated debates about the order — and about the zealousness with which some people were supporting it — could be found with little effort on social media. 

Within an hour of the Clinton police post on Facebook, for instance, hundreds had already weighed in with comments. Some were in support of Mills’ executive orders while many were opposed. 

It was the same wherever the matter was addressed. Some people weren’t as angry about Mills’ order as they were about the fact that so many people had taken to snitching on others the first day it went into effect. 

“People need to mind their own business,” wrote Dan Charest of Sabattus on a Facebook query about the issue “This isn’t one-size-fits-all. Everyone has different reasons for what they do.” 

“We can’t be masked forever so what’s the point?” wrote Stephanie S. Hamilton Bourget of Auburn. “There haven’t been any mass outbreaks and it’s been months that this has been around.” 

“I think we all need to chill out,” wrote Lin Prescott of Auburn, “and not act like we are being asked to give up our firstborn. I am more concerned over keeping the cases down.” 

“Wearing a mask in public is like making a statement that you are concerned about the health and safety of others,” wrote Jim Wilson of Lewiston. “So, when you’re in the grocery store not wearing a mask and walking up the aisle the wrong way, what do you suppose other people think about you?” 

Late in the day, after most police departments fielded flurries of complaints on the first day of Mills’ executive order, Oxford County Sheriff Christopher Wainwright issued a news release advising that his department will investigate whenever violators are reported. 

“As in any situation where there is a potential or alleged violation of law,” the sheriff wrote, “which includes violations of the executive orders, for which law enforcement is obligated to enforce, we will investigate reports of violations and take the appropriate action indicated by our investigative findings or refer the complaint to the appropriate state or local administrative licensing agency.” 

By early evening, the lines at area grocery stores were shorter and people came and went. Most wore face coverings while they shopped, a few did not.  

On social media, the debates raged on, although some people found their way to a middle ground.

Catherine Lavallee said that while she chooses to wear a face covering, she’s not apt to call the police when she sees someone making a different choice. 

“I think refusing to wear one is ignorant,” she said, “but I’m not going to snitch on anyone.” 


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