LIVERMORE FALLS — A summer of what felt like a near end to masking has come to a close, at least for some.

At the end of July, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention changed their masking guidelines (in line with the federal agency) to recommend that all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask while indoors in counties with at least substantial transmission levels of COVID-19. The Maine CDC had previously recommended only unvaccinated individuals wear masks.

With the delta variant gaining steam, COVID-19 transmission in Androscoggin and Franklin counties began to surge at the end of August, leaving both counties with a high transmission level, according to U.S. CDC data.

Now, the Maine CDC is recommending “everyone in (Androscoggin and Franklin counties) should wear a mask in public, indoor settings.”

While the recommendations have changed, the policies for multiple local businesses and establishments in Livermore Falls have not. Most said they are waiting for Governor Janet Mills to once again issue a required mask mandate before they require masking for customers and employees.

Lee Nile, manager of the Food City locations in Livermore Falls, Wilton and Farmington said “we’re following the state requirement, not requiring masking in stores.”

Nile said that “the state requirement says if you’re vaccinated you don’t have to wear one” and is not requiring masking. He’ll only change the store’s policies if the state requires it, he said.

Employees of the store have tested positive for COVID and called out of work, however there hasn’t been any close contact in the store itself since the end of 2020, Nile said.

At Four Winds Too Redemption Center Lobster & Clams, manager Kristin Workman says they are not requiring masking for employees or customers, but that the store is implementing social distancing guidelines and only letting one person into the store at a time. 

Hillside Sports Club in Jay is following a similar policy, according to manager Sherry Labbe. They are requiring that all members socially distance and are following cleaning recommendations per the CDC, however not requiring masking regardless of vaccination status.

“It’s a private club, small group of people that come,” Labbe explained. “We’re very good about (social distancing).”

Labbe said the club would comply with a mandate if required.

Beauty for the Soul Day Spa owner and sole-proprietor Shari Ouellette is wearing masks on a case-by-case basis. She says she will wear a mask if the client asks her to.

“If it comes to the point where the governor says we have to wear masks and it’s mandated by the beauty industry, I will,” Ouellette said.

While these businesses are not planning on changing their policies, the adjustment in recommendations has Inside Out Indoor Garden Supply, a grow supply store, considering a change.

Owner Nick Ashmore said he hadn’t heard about the Maine CDC’s new recommendation until this reporter spoke with him, but would consider it upon learning more.

“I’ll have to look at the news tonight and see what’s going on with the recommendations,” Ashmore said. “We change week to week as this crazy world changes week to week.”

If transmission data worsens in Androscoggin County and Livermore Falls and “it got really bad again,” Ashmore says he would change the store’s masking requirements even if it wasn’t mandated by the state.

“I do believe in everyone’s individual choice but we believe in safety as well,” Ashmore said.

Bruce Peary, jewelry maker and owner of Pearls in the Pines, had similarly not heard of the change in recommendations and has decided to reevaluate his policy.

Peary is currently wearing a mask while in store. Though he did not requiring masks for customers, he said he did ask unvaccinated customers to put a mask on if he learned of their vaccination status.

Informed of Maine CDC’s changed recommendations, Peary said he will put a sign out front recommending that all customers mask.

“If the governor makes it a mandate then the sign will go up saying masks are required,” Peary said.

For their part, Maine’s Paper and Heritage Museum, located in the heart of Livermore Falls, is requiring all visitors wear masks and offering free masks at their entrance.

“It’s just the smart thing to do, I don’t want to see anybody get ill due to a visit to a museum, it’s something I don’t want to see,” said museum President Greg Bizier. “We don’t ask anything about vaccination, it’s much easier and better for everybody.”

However, Bizier said he has not encountered any problems due to the museums requirements.

“I haven’t confronted anybody that hasn’t worn a mask. Most of the time, once they come in and see somebody else with a mask, they’ve gone out and put one on,” Bizier said.

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