AUGUSTA, Maine — The state is taking the next big step to reopening Maine’s tourist economy, but a leader of that industry says the tourist businesses aren’t impressed.
Governor Janet Mills on Monday announced the administration’s plan to let tourists avoid having to quarantine for 14 days in order to vacation here. At the same time, she announced a big increase in testing capacity starting in July.
The quarantine requirement on out of state travelers threatens to decimate Maine’s multi-billion dollar tourist industry. Some hotel owners have said they anticipate losing 90 percent of guests if the quarantine remains in effect through the summer.
Beginning July 1, tourists will have to sign a certificate of compliance when they check into a hotel, motel or other lodging confirming that they've had a COVID-19 test within the previous 72-hours and that it was negative.
People from New Hampshire and Vermont will not have to do that since our three states have similar infection rates of COVID-19, but, people from states such as New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey with high infection rates must sign the document.
“A negative test indicates even if you’re coming from an area of high incidence, such people are unlikely to have COVID and spread it to residents. As a fall-back. they can test when they come to Maine as well but have to quarantine while waiting for the result. So they will be asked to test before they come, know before you go,” said the Governor.
A leader of Maine's tourist industry, however, says that the solution is not getting any praise from businesses. Steve Jewins of Hospitality Maine, which represents several thousand hotels and restaurants, said he had already heard from more than 100 about the Mills plan.
“Operators think that its impractical and tourists won't do this to come here,” Jewins told NEWS CENTER Maine.
“We also do not believe the testing capacity exists in other states, nor will places like CVS even offer tests if you don't have symptoms or a prescription.”
Hewins said the rule will make Maine an “outlier” among the lower 48 states.
Travelers and Maine residents will apparently have an easier time getting COVID tests while they’re here. The Mills Administration also announced a major expansion of testing, starting in July. The state has negotiated an even large agreement with IDEXX of Westbrook, which will quadruple the current amount of testing.
"As result of this new capacity beginning in July the state lab will be able to process additional 25,000 tests per week,” said Maine DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew.
Lambrew said Maine has also chosen locations for new, drive through testing DHHS is calling Swab and Send. The state is seeking bids or proposals from businesses or organizations that want to provide the testing facilities, and said there will be federal funding available to help cover the costs.
At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus