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Mills renews COVID-19 travel restrictions for Massachusetts residents

As coronavirus cases skyrocket across the country, state adds Massachusetts to the list of states whose residents must quarantine before traveling to Maine.
Credit: AP

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Friday reinstated travel restrictions for Massachusetts residents following a surge in COVID-19 cases there.

Effective Monday, travelers coming to Maine from Massachusetts must quarantine for 14 days or provide a recent negative COVID-19 test, although the state recommends travelers get tested prior to their arrival to protect the health and safety of Maine visitors.

The restriction also applies to Maine residents who return to Maine after visiting Massachusetts.

The Mills administration said in a release that after reviewing recent public health data in Massachusetts and other states including positivity rates and 14-day case rates, "Massachusetts demonstrated an alarming increase in prevalence of the virus with a positivity rate of 2.5 percent and 3,384 cases per million over the last fourteen days. By comparison, Maine, which is also seeing an increase in its positivity and case rates, recorded a positivity rate of 1.8 percent and 1,350 new cases per million, over the last fourteen days."

On Thursday, Massachusetts reported more than 26,000 estimated active cases, 2,500 newly reported cases and 21 newly reported deaths from COVID-19. The 7-day average positivity rate is 2.90%.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker this week characterized the rising number of cases as a surge, noting that cases in the state had increased since Labor Day by more than 300% and hospitalizations by nearly 200%, WBUR reported.

“Like most people in Maine, I am extremely concerned about the spread of this virus as we head into the holiday season when we customarily gather with friends and family, often in neighboring states,” Mills said in the release, "Some of our New England states, including Massachusetts, have demonstrated a concerning increase in the prevalence of the virus over the last two weeks. To preserve our ability to travel while protecting the health of our loved ones no matter where they live, visitors from Massachusetts and Maine people returning from Massachusetts must now test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine when coming to Maine. I recognize this will be an inconvenience for many, but it is in the interest of public health and can keep people, including our loved ones, healthy and safe this holiday season.”

Vermont and New Hampshire remain exempt from the 14-day quarantine or negative test requirement, although Mills "strongly recommends" visitors from the two states and Mainers returning from them be tested before they travel.

Vermont and New Hampshire became the first states to be exempt from Maine's restrictions in June, and Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey were added a month later, leaving Massachusetts and Rhode Island as the only New England states not exempt. 

In September, Mills lifted the restrictions on Massachusetts.

“As Maine strives to respond to widespread community spread everywhere in the state, this decision reduces the likelihood of one potential way the virus could be introduced,” Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in the release. “Visitors from Massachusetts can quarantine or take advantage of expanded testing options to help limit potential transmission of the virus and help keep us all safer. And those of us in Maine can do our part by wearing face coverings, staying at least 6 feet apart, and avoiding gatherings. Before you open the door to leave your home, put on a mask and think hard about whether you really need to make that trip.”