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Waterville Mayor Nick Isgro is calling for a ban on reusable shopping bags, calling it a “temporary” measure to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
The Republican mayor made the announcement in a Sunday Facebook post and planned to formally introduce the proposal on Monday during the first meeting of Waterville’s COVID-19 task force. COVID-19 is the official name for the new coronavirus.
Isgro’s proposal would ask the City Council to “temporarily suspend” the city’s ban on single-use plastic bags and to ask retailers to enforce a ban on all bags brought from home.
Isgro’s Facebook post linked to a City Journal opinion piece, republished in the New York Post, that cited studies suggesting viruses and bacteria can survive on tote bags for up to nine days.
That move comes as Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has declared a civil emergency over the spreading coronavirus, which has infected at least eight Maine resdients, while another nine people likely have been infected.
“Be assured this is not to re-litigate our current ordinance. There will be time for that I’m sure in the future. This should be seen as a temporary public safety measure,” Isgro said in his Facebook post.
Isgro was a vocal opponent of the November 2018 referendum to ban single-use plastic bags in the city. That measure passed by about 150 votes, but was later defeated by seven votes during a recount that saw 164 votes — mostly from Colby College students — challenged and removed. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court later reinstated those votes, and the City Council certified the measure as passed in March 2019.
A statewide ban on single-use plastic bags is scheduled to take effect April 24, but state Sen. Stacey Guerin, R-Glenburn, is seeking to delay its implementation before the Legislature adjourns on Tuesday.