Part of an occasional series answering readers’ questions about Maine. 

Q: Will more churches offer drive-in worship services? And how will that work?

A: Several Catholic parishes plan to offer drive-in Masses, the first of which were scheduled for Sunday in Lewiston and Auburn. More will be held next weekend, including in Gorham.

But many other churches are taking a more conservative approach and may choose to skip the drive-in services for now and continue worshipping together exclusively through Zoom and Facebook. Some churches, including the Episcopal Church in Maine, have advised their congregations not to hold drive-in services because it may not be safe for at-risk church members and worship leaders.

Under the first stage of the state’s reopening plan, churches can hold drive-in services as long as worshippers stay in their cars, are not allowed to use bathrooms or other church facilities and follow proper physical distancing recommendations.

The Maine Council of Churches, which works with a variety of faith communities, is advising against drive-in services during the pandemic, but has released safety guidelines for churches to consider if they are holding services. That guidance includes not passing anything between cars, worship leaders staying at least 6 feet from each other and from cars, and only allowing people to open their car windows less than 2 inches.

The council advises against communal singing. Council leaders say they are particularly concerned about the risk of communal singing because microscopic droplets that contain the virus remain suspended in the air for up to three hours and singers disperse aerosolized droplets farther than 6 feet.

Bishop Robert Deeley is allowing Catholic parishes to hold drive-in services, but with some pretty strict guidelines. People must remain in their cars and can only come with people from their own household. Cars must have one empty parking spot between them, and Holy Communion will not be distributed until church officials can find a safe way to do that.

In general, the first drive-in Masses are being held in parking lots. Priests will lead the Masses from raised platforms or balconies. In some cases, attendance will be limited and volunteers will help make sure vehicles and people are spread apart.

For information about the drive-in Masses, go to the Portland Diocese website.

Q: Are marinas allowed to open or are they open now?

A: Marinas were allowed to open as of May 1, but it may take some time before all of them are able to do so.

Before May 1, boat builders were on the state’s list of essential operations, although marinas weren’t, per se. But marinas that help maintain boats for commercial fishing fleets, harbormasters and other law enforcement agencies could have been deemed essential and a few have remained open.

Marinas that want to reopen need to meet guidelines that include limiting the number of customers in common areas, reminding customers to maintain a physical distance of 6 feet from others, and minimizing contact between employees and customers. That means marinas will make appointments over the phone or by email and create touch-free drop spots for deliveries. Boats will need to be disinfected before and after service.

Boaters arriving by water from outside Maine are required to remain on their boats until the executive order requiring a 14-day quarantine for people arriving from other states is lifted.

That guidance for the marina industry came out late Wednesday night, so marina operators haven’t had much time to digest the information and make the adjustments necessary to reopen. Stacey Keefer of the Maine Marine Trades Association suggests boaters check in with their local marinas for information about their status and any local restrictions.

And while many boaters may be eager to get their boats into the water in the coming weeks, they may not find the same social scene they’re used to on the docks. Regattas, rendezvous and other activities likely won’t happen as marinas work to keep physical distancing among customers and staff.

Q: Do I have to wear a mask every time I go out in public in Maine? What are the penalties if people refuse?

A: Starting last Friday, everyone in Maine who enters a public place where physical distancing is difficult to maintain is required to wear a cloth face mask or covering.

The executive order by Gov. Janet Mills identifies public places or settings as indoor spaces that are accessible to the public such as grocery stores, retail stores, pharmacies and health care facilities, as well as outdoor spaces such as playgrounds, busy parking lots, and other areas such as lines for takeout service where people tend to gather.

Masks also are required when using transportation such as a taxi, Uber, Lyft or other ride-sharing services, ferries, buses or trains, as well as in any semi-enclosed transit stop or waiting area.

Under the order, cloth face coverings are not required for children under age 2, a child in a child care setting, or for anyone who has trouble breathing or related medical conditions, or who is otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The order also strongly urges people to maintain social distancing of 6 feet in addition to wearing face coverings.

Enforcement will be up to local police departments, or county or state police in rural parts of the state. Violations of any of the orders related to fighting the pandemic can be enforced as misdemeanor crimes, punishable with a maximum of six months jail and a $1,000 fine.

But the governor and state officials have not pushed for that kind of enforcement action and instead say they are relying on volunteer compliance or, when needed, educational intervention by law enforcement.

Of course, open refusal to follow the order can lead to the enforcement action, as has happened to people who repeatedly violated the stay-at-home order in Westbrook recently.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: