Portland Mayor Kate Snyder listens as City Manager Jon Jennings announces a city employee who works at the India Street clinic has tested positive for the coronavirus. Credit: Troy Bennett | BDN

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PORTLAND, Maine — Those who violate the city’s strict “stay-at-home” order could be fined as officials here look to keep people off the streets for the coming days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The city of Portland has issued an emergency order that requires all businesses that do not provide essential services to shut down by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Residents may only leave their homes to access essential services from grocery stores, pharmacies and a handful of other businesses during that time. Failure to comply with the order is punishable by a $500 fine per incident plus the costs of prosecution.

“We need to act, we need to take this seriously, and we need to do this now,” Mayor Kate Snyder said.

The order echoes those in other major U.S. cities that have declared similar emergencies because of the pandemic.

City Manager Jon Jennings said that he would request an extension at the March 30 City Council meeting.

“I was propelled to take this action based on the data we have related to the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Southern Maine,” Jennings said in a statement, referring to the illness caused by the coronavirus. “This was not an easy decision to make given the impacts it will further have on our economy, but my hope in doing this stay at home order now is that if we restrict as many activities as possible for a short time, then we can re-emerge from this crisis sooner. It is essential for anyone living in Cumberland or York counties to take this very seriously. We can flatten the curve in Southern Maine if we act now.”