AUGUSTA, Maine — The Mill Administration announced its "Keep Maine Healthy" plan on Monday that seeks to help small businesses and Maine's tourism economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The new plan will provide out-of-state visitors an alternative option to the 14-day quarantine requirement: proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test.
“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,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement. “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.”
The Mills Administration says plan rests on three cornerstones:
- 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
- Increasing symptom checks at places where visitors tend to go
- Supporting community promotion of COVID-19 prevention best practices and public health education
The plan was floated last week to business owners and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services used feedback from businesses to develop the official plan.
Tourism businesses have been urging the Administration to drop the 14-day quarantine requirement. Last month, seven tourism industry groups across Maine wrote an open letter to Mills urging her to lift the quarantine requirement.
Maine’s tourism industry rakes in $9 billion each year and supports upwards of 110,000 jobs, according to the letter. This year, businesses have been bracing for their toughest summer tourism season 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."
“Maine people and businesses should be proud that their commitment to public health and science-based precautions has limited the spread of COVID-19,” Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of the Maine DHHS said. “As we enter the summer months, Maine is prepared to support visitors as well as residents of our state in keeping Maine healthy.”
Here's a breakdown of the plan:
Testing as an Alternative to Quarantine:
The State will allow adults who obtain and receive a negative COVID-19 test no later than 72 hours prior to arrival forgo the 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Maine. This test indicates that, even when coming from areas with a higher prevalence of the disease than Maine’s, such individuals are unlikely to have COVID-19 and to spread it to Maine residents and other visitors. Maine is strongly urging visitors to “Know Before You Go,” meaning they should get tested and receive their test results in their home state before traveling to Maine, which will allow them to take appropriate action depending on the result. Individuals may be tested upon arrival in Maine as well, but they must quarantine while awaiting the results.
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 of 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 lodgings, 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.
Increasing symptom checking:
Given that at least half of all people with COVID-19 show symptoms, the State will encourage symptom checks through State and local systems, as well as through the private sector, like those the State has already required for some COVID-19 Prevention Checklists utilized by Maine businesses.
DHHS will partner with the Maine Community College System to enlist Maine students in the health professions under the guidance of the Public Health Nursing Program to ask visitors in high-traffic places in tourist destinations, such as visitors’ centers and beach parking lot entrances, about such symptoms and to offer advice on staying well. Additionally, the Department of Transportation will place signs at key sites – such as along major roadways entering Maine, State Parks, or State Ferries – instructing people to stay home or seek medical care if they have symptoms of COVID-19. These signs will also include the requirement that most out-of-state visitors quarantine or get tested for COVID-19. High-density private sector businesses, such as museums and retail stores, will be encouraged to use symptom checks as well.
Supporting local public health and COVID-19 prevention efforts:
Recognizing that municipalities are on the front lines for community questions and concerns related to COVID-19 and that many municipalities would like to partner with the state to be part of the solution, the State will incentivize municipalities to develop and implement their own COVID-19 prevention and protection plans by reimbursing municipal costs associated with public health education and prevention activities. The State will support up to a total of $13 million statewide from the 100 percent federal Coronavirus Relief Fund. Local prevention and education plans should include a point of contact for the municipality or Tribal government and one or more of the following:
- Public education activities: This could include printing and posting of existing State or national COVID-19 prevention information and developing local educational activities that are consistent with CDC guidelines. Costs eligible for reimbursement would include staff time for planning and education activities and costs for signage, materials, website development, brochures and mailing.
- Physical distancing and public health support: This could include fences, tape, and signage for physical distancing in public spaces and closed streets; providing staff to limit crowds in front of restaurants, bars, beaches and other sites; new traffic pattern signage and education; purchases of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to be made available for staff, visitors, and for use at public locations; and extra cleaning supplies and additional staff time required for enhanced cleaning and management of public spaces and restroom facilities.
- Local business assistance: This includes staff time for a Code Enforcement Officer, Local Health Officer, or other person designated by the municipality or Tribe to be the local contact for educating local businesses on best practices. This may include following up on public complaints and, for certain cases, reporting to State officials when there is a potential public health violation that cannot be quickly resolved through educational means.
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.
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
NEWS CENTER Maine Coronavirus Coverage