Mask Mandate FAQ

What is the indoor mask mandate?

At the January 3, 2022 City Council meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to implement a mask mandate ordinance for the city of Portland. People (ages 2+) must wear masks when inside public places in Portland as of Wednesday, January 5. Businesses that require proof of vaccination of everyone on premises do not need to require masks be worn. Businesses must post "masks required" signs that are visible to the public as of January 10. The City Council will review this ordinance every 30 days to determine whether or not it stays in effect. The City Manager also has the ability to issue an executive order suspending the mandate if the seven-day average of new cases for Cumberland County drops to the U.S. CDC’s “moderate” transmission level for a period of 10 consecutive days.  

What does the ordinance say?

The mask ordinance requires all people entering public buildings in Portland to wear coverings over their noses and mouths. A public building is any building or portion of a building that’s regularly accessible to the general public. Face coverings must be worn when using or operating public transportation, including buses, trains, taxis, ride shares, vehicles for hire and any other ride services.

There are exceptions for people with medical conditions that are complicated or irritated by a face covering and anyone who is having difficulty breathing or is incapacitated. The ordinance does not apply to private homes or residential units, public schools (which fall under the jurisdiction of the School Board and are already requiring masks indoors and on school buses), and churches and other places of worship.

Other exceptions are office spaces where the occupants are separated from the general public and portions of theaters, gyms and athletic arenas where participants all have been vaccinated and there is either space, a physical barrier or ventilation separating them from the general public.

CAN BUSINESSES REQUIRE BOTH MASKS AND VACCINES?

Yes, businesses can require both. In fact, a multi-pronged approach involving both masks and vaccination is ideal. The ordinance, however, is focused on masks. 

IF I AM VACCINATED, DO I NEED TO WEAR A MASK?

Please note that vaccinated individuals are not automatically exempt from the ordinance or its requirement that masks be worn in public buildings. Under the ordinance, masks must be worn by everyone regardless of vaccination status, unless a business restricts access to all people on premises who show proof of vaccination.

Will the city be providing mask supplies to businesses?

Yes, we are working on supplying surgical masks to businesses so they can have them for any members of the public who show up without one. Peer-reviewed public health research shows no major difference between the effectiveness of surgical masks and KN95 masks.  

Masks will be available to pick up at City Hall, via the Myrtle Street entrance, on Thursday, January 6 between 9:30 AM and 3:00 PM. Additional dates will be announced for the week of January 10 as soon as supplies become available.   

We are also updating our “masks required” posters and window decal signage and businesses will be able to download a digital version of the poster from the staythecourse.me website and/or pick up a window decal for their business when they pick up mask supplies. 

What is a public building as defined by the ordinance?

The definition of “public space” includes “any building or portion of a building within the City of Portland that is regularly accessible to the general public.” For example, if there is a mechanic shop with a garage area that is not regularly accessible to the public, then that portion of the building or establishment would not constitute a “public building” subject to the mask requirement. However, any customer area would be. This same example would apply to a grocery stockroom or office space where members of the public are not present.  

Does the ordinance apply to gyms and restaurants?

The mandate does apply to gyms, although they can take advantage of the vaccine exception. In addition, if a gym has an area that is separated from the general public and entry into that area is restricted to individuals who are vaccinated, masks would not have to be worn in that area. The ordinance also states that people may temporarily remove their masks “to participate in the primary purpose of the business, such as eating or drinking” at a restaurant. However, such removal must take place at an isolated location, such as a table or booth, and people must put their masks back on as soon as that activity is complete or if they move away from their isolated location.

Who is considered vaccinated?

The City of Portland is following the U.S. CDC definition of fully vaccinated. As of January 5, 2022, the CDC’s website defines fully vaccinated to mean:  A person is considered fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 infection ≥2 weeks after receipt of the second dose in a 2-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) or ≥2 weeks after receipt of a single dose of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. CDC has developed interim public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people. Administration of an additional primary dose or a booster dose is not required to be considered fully vaccinated for public health purposes at this time. People who have a contraindication to vaccination or who otherwise do not complete a primary vaccination series are not considered fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated people should continue to follow guidance for fully vaccinated persons at this time to minimize spread of SARS-CoV-2 to others.

how will the mask mandate be enforced?

Businesses are the first line of defense in ensuring compliance as the ordinance requires people entering business establishments to wear a mask and contains a requirement that businesses display “masks required” signs by January 10, 2022. People can submit compliance complaints via the City's SeeClickFix mobile or web app or send an email to info@portlandmaine.gov.

The City has one Local Health Officer appointed as a Constable to enforce this ordinance. That person will start with education to achieve compliance in response to any complaints. As this person has been appointed a constable by the City Council, they will also have the ability to issue tickets to those in violation of the ordinance. Violations can result in fines ranging up to $500 for each violation.