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Mills' new 'COVID passport' plan could help out-of-staters avoid 14-day quarantine

The new plan would allow travelers to avoid the quarantine requirement if they can show proof they had recently tested negative for COVID-19.

AUGUSTA, Maine — For weeks, Maine’s tourist industry has said it cannot function with the current 14-day quarantine mandate on out-of-state travelers into Maine. The Mills administration has said the quarantine is the best weapon to protect Mainers against tourists bringing COVID-19 into Maine from “hot spots” like Massachusetts and New York. 

Now, the administration has an alternative plan in mind and is looking for the tourist industry to say if it can work.

The plan, called “Keep ME Healthy”, is being circulated for comment among businesses and tourism groups. Maine Department Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said Tuesday the input is needed to refine the proposal.

“We think the framework we are considering about thinking of alternatives to quarantine, using science to get at it, make some sense so we want ideas how to do that,” Lambrew said.

Watch the complete Maine CDC briefing with Director Dr. Nirav Shah and DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew here:

RELATED: Portland small business owners urge Gov. Mills to slow reopening, keep 14-day quarantine in place

The core of the proposal is a sort of “COVID passport”, which would allow out of state residents or travelers to avoid the quarantine requirement if they can show proof they had recently tested negative for COVID-19. Precise details of what would be acceptable or how recent the test would have to be are not included at this point. 

The proposal also suggests hotels and other lodgings would require that documentation be presented before someone could register for a room. Lodging operators would need to contact all people with reservations to inform them of the testing requirement.

Lambrew said they want feedback from businesses and others in the tourist industry on whether the plan could work.

Tourist business owners have predicted they will lose 90% of their guests this summer if the quarantine remains in effect. 

Hotels and other lodging facilities were allowed to open June 1 for Maine residents and for those from outside the state who have already quarantined, although the state currently has no consistent enforcement mechanism for the quarantine or a way for people to prove them have followed the mandate.

More details on the Keep ME Healthy proposal are expected in the coming days.

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

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

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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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