The New Gloucester Board of Selectmen took no action on an anti-mask resolution that questioned the constitutionality of Gov. Janet Mills’ executive orders requiring face coverings in public settings.

Vice Chairperson Linda Chase requested that the resolution, which is almost entirely word-for-word taken from a resolution introduced in Androscoggin County by Androscoggin County Commissioner Isaiah Lary in February, be put on Monday night’s agenda.

The four-page preamble begins with a declaration that “there is scant scientific evidence to date that cloth masks prevent the spread of COVID-19 despite the fact that cloth mask use is quite common, yet infection rates are still high.”

A number of scientific studies conducted and cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, National Institutes of Health and other medical research institutions across the country have found that wearing a multi-layer cloth mask dramatically reduces the risk of infection to both the mask-wearer and those surrounding them.

The aim of the resolution is to prohibit town officials from enforcing the Mills administration’s executive orders regarding the pandemic and the use of “town funds, personnel or equipment” to do so.

Chase did not elaborate much on her decision to introduce it, but said Monday night that she is “not necessarily saying I’m against or for mask mandates. What I’m saying is that there should be cases where if you choose not to wear a mask you don’t have to.”

Chase did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“I wear a mask all day at work and would continue,” said Chase, who owns Trusted Souls Adult Day Care Center.

A spokesperson from the Maine Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday referred to Attorney General Aaron Frey’s letter to the Androscoggin County Commissioners for the office’s response to the resolution.

“To the extent that this resolution is premised on the notion that the executive orders are not constitutional, I want to assure you, as Maine’s chief law enforcement officer, that the executive orders are constitutional,” and enforceable through civil and criminal processes, Frey wrote.

“Also, counties, municipalities and other political subdivisions have no authority to exempt themselves from executive orders, and any effort to do so would be of no legal effect,” he stated.

More than 70 residents, a number of whom spoke during public comment, tuned in to Monday’s virtual meeting. The majority of those who spoke expressed their dismay and opposition to the resolution.

“In my 16 years of municipal government, I’m not sure I’ve seen anything as irresponsible or ignorant as this resolution,” New Gloucester resident and South Portland City Manager Scott Morelli told the board.

“Residents shouldn’t have to worry that their elected leaders are taking a politics-over-people approach and declaring that they know more than health officials,” Morelli said.

Patricia Morris called the resolution a “manifesto,” while Sarah Gusky Kemer said it is “incredibly callous” to talk about “people dying for the freedom of our country but not talking about the 500,000-plus who died from COVID.”

Among a number of other statements, the resolution claims that “the coronavirus is so small” that only masks such as the N95, which are “suffocatingly tight and require fit testing” can prevent transmission.

Diana Dowd, an adjunct professor of microbiology at University of New England, said that misinformation is “hurting people.”

Chase had some supporters in the crowd. Dorene Libby, a nursing student at Central Maine Community College, said she “believes in this resolution.”

“I believe there is substantial evidence that masks cause more harm than good,” she said, adding that masks “may have worsened health conditions or created them.”

Caleb Dunn said “it’s insulting to me how quickly the maskers are willing to give up their individual rights.”

The resolution was tabled to an undetermined date.

“I am a nurse, I do believe in science,” said Chairperson Karen Gilles. “I have personally experienced loss from COVID but I’m also equally frustrated with how things are going so I can see every side.”

Selectman Peter Bragdon said in an email Monday, “While I have my strong opinions on masks, the Selectboard meeting is not the place for it.”

Tammy Donovan was absent from the meeting.

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