As the Walmart in Gorham reopens Thursday after a COVID-19 deep cleaning, leaders in Gorham and Berlin are considering whether to reimpose mask mandates to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Gorham Town Manager Denise Vallee and Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier on Wednesday each said their legislative bodies — the Board of Selectmen and City Council — will discuss the mandates at meetings on Oct. 25.
Grenier said it was “likely” that the City Council would enact “some type of mandate locally.”
That potential action comes in the wake of an Oct. 15 “Code Red” alert that Vallee and Berlin City Manager Jim Wheeler, in conjunction with the local Emergency Management Task Force, Androscoggin Valley Hospital and Coos County Family Health Services, issued about “a recent and rapid increase in the rate of COVID infections in the community.”
The alert said AVH was “experiencing its highest levels of COVID activity since the pandemic began, and the Berlin/Gorham region has the highest number of case rates in the state. This has led to the lack of available beds at AVH.”
A representative of the hospital was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
To minimize transmission of the virus, the alert recommended that persons stay home if they’ve been diagnosed with or suspect having COVID-19, social distancing, wearing a mask in public settings, avoiding large groups and getting vaccinated.
Walmart said its Gorham store would be closed from 2 p.m. Oct. 19 until 6 a.m. Oct. 21 during which time “a third-party specialist” would further sanitize the store while associates restocked shelves and prepared the store to reopen.
Vallee commended Walmart for what it’s doing at the Gorham store, adding that she will advocate for Gorham selectmen to require people to wear masks in public again.
“There really isn’t an enforcement component” to the once and possibly future Gorham face mask mandate, said Vallee, but regardless, the mandate “does give some support to local businesses who want to require people to wear masks in their establishments.”
“We have 11 active cases today (Wednesday) and I think that’s dropped by only a couple compared to Friday,” said Vallee, who along with Grenier, is watching for any new cases that might arise from either Berlin’s RiverFire Festival and Gorham Middle High School homecoming. Both events were held Oct. 16.
To mitigate exposure to COVID-19, Gorham has canceled a performance by “Beatles for Sale,” a Beatles tribute band that was scheduled to perform Oct. 22 at the Medallion Opera House, which is in Town Hall, said Vallee, while school officials are setting up a vaccination-booster clinic for staff.