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Maine tourism groups call for an end to 14-day quarantine rule for out-of-state visitors

Seven tourism industry groups across the state released an open letter to Gov. Janet Mills as COVID-19 restrictions threaten summer business.

OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — Leaders of the state’s tourism industry are calling on Gov. Janet Mills to lift her mandatory 14-day quarantine for all out-of-state visitors, as they brace for what is expected to be one of the toughest summer tourist seasons yet.

“It's a dire situation,” Tony Cameron with the Maine Tourism Association said. "It's incredibly urgent to act and try to find alternative solutions so we can welcome as many people as we can."

The Maine Tourism Association, Hospitality Maine, and Visit Portland were among the seven groups to sign off on the letter.

While it was supportive of Mills’ efforts, it urged her to remove the restrictions and work with business leaders to develop a safe reopening plan.  

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Maine’s tourism industry rakes in $9 billion each year and supports upwards of 110,000 jobs, according to the letter.

"For the past two months, it's been good. It's been okay. We've definitely been able to hold our own,” Bar Harbor business owner Jena Young told NEWS CENTER Maine.

Young, who is in support of lifting the restriction, said she has been able to open her and her husband’s popular Side Street Café going with take-out ordering and having new safety precautions in place, but she worries it won't be enough to get them through the summer.

"It's impossible for all of these small communities to keep these small businesses afloat. The numbers just don't work out,” she said.

Two hundred miles south in Old Orchard Beach, inn owner Fred Kennedy is also concerned.

He said the Alouette Beach Resort continues to see cancellations every day—primarily from out-of-staters.

“So rather than not having any revenue you have negative revenue going out,” Kennedy said.

The Mills Administration announced Thursday it would allow businesses in the lodging industry to immediately start accepting reservations for stays beginning June 1.

RELATED: Maine lodging businesses can begin accepting out-of-state reservations

“The tourism and hospitality industries are vital pillars of Maine’s economy. Although the pandemic has altered how they can operate safely, it has in no way diminished their importance – both to our economy and to us as a state,” Gov. Mills said in a statement. “We are acting in partnership with the industry to resume reservations while we also work together to evaluate alternatives to the 14-day quarantine, including testing and other protocols, that will allow us to protect Maine residents and tourists during the summer months.”

On Thursday in the Maine CDC coronavirus briefing, Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said the State is relying on the honor system. While she said the new changes will easily help seasonal residents who have second homes in Maine adhere to the quarantine requirements, for commercial lodging the quarantine requirements must be self-enforced.

RELATED: Questions answered: Guidelines for 14 day self-quarantine due to coronavirus, COVID-19

The Administration says ultimately, the goal to be able to adjust the 14-day quarantine but to do so in a way that still protects the health of Maine people.

Under the current plan, the 14-day restriction will be in place until at least July. Kennedy and Young are among the dozens who fear that would be too late.

“Obviously we want everybody to be safe, but I think there's got to be a little more balance in recognizing what's on the line for everybody,” Kennedy said.

The Department of Economic and Community Development also released additional COVID-19 Prevention Checklists for Stage 2 businesses tentatively slated to open in June under the Restarting Maine’s Economy Plan. 

Additional guidelines for businesses are expected to be released next week.

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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

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