Gov. Janet Mills on Thursday implemented a mandatory 9 p.m. closing time for restaurants and certain other Maine businesses as the state experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The new order requires that all "outdoor and indoor amusement venues, movie theaters, performing arts venues, casinos, and businesses that provide seated food and drink service, including social clubs, restaurants, and bars and tasting rooms currently open for outdoor service, will close for the night by 9 p.m."

The curfew will begin Friday, Nov. 20 and run through Sunday, Dec. 6.

The limit on hours during that period is designed to limit extended gatherings as many students and family members are returning to Maine and at a time when social gatherings are more common. Both of those factors likely lead to more COVID-19 transmission, according to a news release.

"As we enter the colder months and a holiday season when we customarily gather with friends and family, we are also entering a new and dangerous phase of the pandemic," Mills said. "Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have been performing a balancing act, basing our decisions on science and medical expertise, weighing the safety of reopening with the necessity of getting back to business. This targeted and temporary step will reduce extended gatherings while keeping the businesses open. Other steps may be necessary in the coming weeks if we do not get this virus under control. I ask all Maine people, please wear your face covering, wash your hands, watch your distance and avoid hosting or attending gatherings with friends and loved ones unless it is absolutely necessary. Returning to normal life sometime next year first requires us to survive the holidays this year."

In recent days, the state has seen record numbers of cases. On Thursday, Maine reported 215 new cases with one additional death -- a woman in her 40s. To date, 171 Maine residents have died with COVID-19.

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