Jimmy Simones talks Thursday with two of his regular customers, Vicki Wright, left, and Connie Foss, at Simones Hot Dog Stand in Lewiston. Simones can’t wait to remove his mask, like many of his customers. While the two women also think it is good that the mandate is being lifted, they still plan to wear a mask when in public settings, at least for the near future. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Hungry customers standing in the lunch line last week at Simones Hot Dog Stand last week were masked up.

On Monday, customers and workers will no longer have to wear masks, vaccinated or not vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Yay, no masks!” owner Jimmy Simones said. “If the customers want to, they can wear a mask. But you don’t have to.”

The time is right for the state to lift the rule, Simones said. “People have done it long enough. They’re ready.”

Reaction from management was different at the Loaves and Fishes bingo hall on Lisbon Street, the same as others randomly interviewed.

On Monday, the bingo hall at The Carriage House can be full of players instead of half full. The social distancing tape on the floor can be removed. Empty tables can again be filled.

Dot Gosselin talks with bingo players Wednesday before games at Loaves & Fishes in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Manager Dot Gosselin said she’ll ask players to mask up coming in and walking around. “I’m not going to jeopardize” the lives of customers, she said. Once the players sit down at their tables, “they won’t have to wear a mask.”

Gosselin, who with Chrissy Gallo runs the popular bingo games that donate proceeds to charity, said the timing is not right to lift the indoor masking and capacity limits, and cases in Androscoggin County remain  the highest in the state.

“It’s too early. It’s too much at once,” Gosselin said. When she goes into stores, “I am going to wear my mask. I have young grandkids. They won’t be able to be vaccinated.”

 

Mary Leonas of Greene said she’s uneasy with the indoor unmasking.

Mary Leonas of Greene arranges her good luck charms Wednesday as she waits for the bingo games to begin at Loaves & Fishes in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“It’s a little premature to unmask, not until we’ve got herd immunity, and Maine’s a little more than 50% vaccinated,” she said. “I don’t think it’s time yet. When I go into places I will absolutely wear a mask. I know people who have had COVID.”

Rolande Laliberte arranges her bingo cards Wednesday at Loaves & Fishes in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Leonas said she’s fully vaccinated.

Rolande Laliberte of Greene said she can’t wait to stop wearing her mask when going out.

“I’m going to take it off!” she said. “I’m vaccinated. If we can show our card saying we are vaccinated, why should we wear a mask?”

The time is right, Laliberte said, to unmask in Maine. “There’s a limit. We’ve passed the limit.”

Shoppers at the Auburn Mall also offered mixed opinions.

“I’m going to continue to wear a mask. I have health issues,” Tammy Jackson said. She said she can understand where it’s safe for people who are vaccinated not to wear masks, but there’s no way to know who’s fully vaccinated and who’s not.

Jane Waisanen of Greenwood said she’s fine with no masks starting Monday. “A lot of people can’t wear masks. My husband’s one of them,” she said. “He gets lightheaded when he’s in Walmart. He has to go outside.”

Asked if she would no longer wear a mask when going into public places, she said she has not been vaccinated. But that was before Gov. Janet Mills decreed on Wednesday that no one, vaccinated or not, has to wear a mask. It is now only a recommendation that the unvaccinated mask up indoors.

Janette Lemieux and Cody Turner, both of Dixfield, enter a store Wednesday morning at the Auburn Mall. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Jeanette Lemieux of Dixfield, who works in the medical field, said she still will mask up. Her companion, Cody Turner, also of Dixfield, said he hasn’t thought about it yet and wasn’t sure whether he’ll mask up or not.

“I have no idea,” Turner said. Wearing a mask “doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s like wearing shoes.”

Dr. John Alexander, chief medical officer for Central Maine Healthcare, said the latest CDC guidelines adopted by the state recommend — not mandate — that fully vaccinated individuals, “and by that we mean those who have received a final dose of vaccine more than 14 days ago, to remove their masks when indoors,” he said in an email. The change represents an important recognition of the effectiveness of the vaccines to prevent the spread, as well as many Mainers getting vaccinated.

But, Alexander added, “running a good race does not mean we’ve crossed the finish line, though. There is still work to do for a large portion of our population” who have not yet been vaccinated. “We continue to work toward ensuring everyone has access to a vaccine in our communities.”


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