In this Sept. 29, 2019, file photo, Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque talks with Patrick Dempsey before a Dempsey Challenge cycling event in Lewiston. Credit: Daryn Slover / Sun Journal via AP

Auburn Mayor Jason Levesque said he would continue to not wear a mask during City Council meetings despite Gov. Janet Mills’ new executive order on face coverings.

Levesque told the Sun Journal on Monday that he would not wear face coverings in the meetings to ensure that viewers can understand him as he presided over the council.

“This is not to be construed as a show of defiance, or non-compliance, with the governor’s mandate,” Levesque told the Journal. “This decision was made after careful consideration of health risk, my interpretation of the governor’s executive order, the mandate for open government and the needs of those with certain challenges to participate, watch and listen to our deliberations.”

Levesque condemned Mills’ executive order on face coverings on his Facebook page shortly after Mills announced it Thursday.

“While mask’s [sic] work, the Governor’s approach to compliance is wrong,” Levesque wrote.

Levesque — a former Republican nominee for the U.S. House and mayor of Auburn since 2017 — has been a frequent critic of COVID-19 restrictions. In July, he said that he would follow an earlier executive order from Mills on masks but would lobby the governor’s office to change policy. Last month, he asked why there was still debate about holding winter sports in Maine.

Another 172 coronavirus cases were reported across the state Tuesday, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 22 were in Androscoggin County, where Auburn is located.

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