Posted June 08, 2020
The Mills Administration today unveiled an alternative to the State’s 14-day quarantine requirement for people entering Maine. The multilayered plan, called Keep Maine Healthy, aims to protect the health of Maine people and visitors while allowing the opportunity for people to visit Maine and support Maine small businesses during the summer months. The plan rests on three cornerstones: 1) having visitors certify that they have received a recent negative COVID-19 test to stay in lodging establishments, such as hotels, as an alternative to quarantine; 2) increasing symptom checks at places where visitors tend to go; and 3) supporting community promotion of COVID-19 prevention best practices and public health education.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has loomed large over our state’s tourism industry. Many Maine people are fearful that more visitors will increase the spread of the virus while many small businesses are fearful that a lack of visitors will force them to permanently close their doors,” said Governor Janet Mills. “It is my hope that by creating layers of protection to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus this plan will protect public health, establish Maine as a safe place to visit, and allow tourists to come to Maine to support our small businesses.”
“We look forward to safely welcoming tourists to Maine,” said Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “We believe that tourists will be selecting destinations that are safe and still have the high quality experiences that Maine is known for.”
“Maine people and businesses should be proud that their commitment to public health and science-based precautions has limited the spread of COVID-19,” said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services. “As we enter the summer months, Maine is prepared to support visitors as well as residents of our state in keeping Maine healthy.”
To protect Maine people during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State implemented a quarantine requirement – a proven public health strategy to mitigate the spread of the virus – that required those entering Maine to quarantine for 14 days. Nearly half the states in the country, including all in New England, implemented some form of quarantine for travelers since the start of the pandemic.
Recognizing the value of the tourism and hospitality industries to Maine’s economy, and knowing that people will travel to locations that are safe, the Mills Administration has been working collaboratively to develop a proposal that aims to protect the health of Maine people and visitors while allowing the opportunity for tourists to enjoy Maine’s incredible summer and support our small businesses. Over the course of the past several weeks, the Administration has engaged with tourism and hospitality industry leaders, business owners, local chambers of commerce, public health experts, lawmakers, and municipal officials, among others, to devise the Keep Maine Healthy plan.
Keep Maine Healthy has three cornerstones:
Additionally, the State will exempt residents of New Hampshire and Vermont from the testing and 14-day quarantine requirement altogether because, when adjusted for population, the prevalence of active cases of COVID-19 in these states is similar to that in Maine. There is no other state with as low a prevalence of COVID-19 within a 12 hour drive. Meanwhile, the prevalence of the virus in states like Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey – where nearly half of Maine’s tourists historically originate – is eight to eleven times higher than the population-adjusted cases in Maine. This exemption is effective immediately for travel and effective June 12th for stays in lodging establishments. The State will continue to evaluate possible additional exemptions based on trends in other states.
People who are not residents of Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont and are visiting Maine will be asked to sign a Certificate of Compliance indicating either that they have received a negative COVID-19 test result, that they will quarantine in Maine for 14 days, or that they have already completed their quarantine in Maine. This compliance form must be provided to check-in at all Maine lodging, campgrounds, seasonal rentals, overnight camps, and other commercial lodging, such as Airbnb. Visitors may be asked to furnish proof of the negative test result upon request. It will become effective July 1 (Stage 3) when lodging establishments may begin serving residents outside of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The Department of Economic and Community Development, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, has prepared a draft form for public feedback and will finalize it in the coming week. Signing a compliance form in order to stay in lodging establishments is also a policy employed by both the states of New Hampshire and Vermont.
“The Maine Municipal Association commends and thanks Governor Mills and her Administration for developing the Municipal COVID-19 Awareness Campaign opportunity for cities and towns,” said Christine Landes, President of Maine Municipal Association and Gardiner City Manager. “Not only will the program help offset local expenses, it also recognizes the front line role municipal officials have played, and continue to play, in keeping their residents and visitors safe since the COVID-19 health crisis took hold in mid-March. By making $13 million in CARES Act funding available, the Governor’s partnership plan provides municipalities with reimbursement for local public health education and support activities and local business assistance. MMA encourages municipalities that have the capacity and interest to take advantage of this local coronavirus assistance program.”
The three elements of this plan – testing, symptom checks, and local prevention – will complement the State’s work to raise awareness of best practices to keep Maine safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, the Department of Health and Human Services has launched a public awareness campaign called “Keep It Maine” to motivate people to continue the COVID-19 prevention best practices that have helped Maine maintain its low case counts compared to other states, including physical distancing, wearing of cloth face coverings, and hand hygiene.
In addition to the prevention measures, a new standing order and significantly expanded testing will support employees of Maine’s tourism industry. Employees and customer service are the core of the Maine tourism experience, and this expanded testing will ensure they have access to testing to protect themselves, their families, and the people at their hotels or other hospitality sites.
Throughout this process, Maine CDC will monitor epidemiological data, as it has throughout the entire reopening process, including case trends, hospitalization rates, and reports of COVID-like symptoms, as well as health care readiness and capacity. If a review of these metrics in their totality and in context finds evidence of a concerning increase in COVID-19, the State reserves the right to move swiftly to limit harm and protect Maine people, including the potential of rolling back some sector-specific re-openings in a community or region.
A longform version of Keep Maine Healthy can be read HERE.