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Tourist industry says Mills' coronavirus, COVID-19 tourist test plan not workable

The Mills administration has been working for weeks to create an alternative to self-quarantining, but the tourist industry is apparently not impressed.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Tourist businesses in Maine are saying the plan announced Monday by Governor Janet Mills to have out-of-state residents get a COVID-19 test in their home states in order to come to Maine without a quarantine just won’t work.

The plan is a response to an outcry against the 14-day quarantine requirement for anyone traveling to Maine from out of state, except for essential workers.

Tourist businesses have said that requirements will destroy the summer and fall tourist season. The Mills administration has been working for several weeks to devise an alternative, and the new plan is it, but the tourist industry is apparently not impressed.

“I need a test so I can go on vacation- I don’t see that as being practical, honestly,” said Steve Hewins of Hospitality Maine, which represents hotels and restaurants.

One hotel owner in York County told NEWS CENTER Maine she had already talked to a number of out of state residents Tuesday who indicated they will not come to Maine if they have to take a test, let alone quarantine. Hewins said he understands.

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“It's so risky a proposal, my fear is it won’t produce the results the industry needs. No one is looking to make a profit the objective is to produce enough revenue for business to survive the season and come back in 2021. We don't see that happening,” said Hewins.

He said out-of-state tourists would have already complained tests are difficult and expensive to get out of state, that testing is only for people with symptoms, but Maine’s Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, Heather Johnson, who wrote much of the new plan, says it can work, and that testing will be available in Maine.

“By July 1 in Maine, and forward, you will be able to test at a walkthrough test without even engagement with a doctor, because of the standing order the state opened yesterday,” said Johnson. “Employees, tourists, and residents or anyone in Maine will be able to get a test so that barrier will be non-existent."

Johnson said other states are already increasing their own testing capacity and suggested people in those states should be more readily able to get tests where they live.

Johnson also said studies show tourists want to travel to places where they will feel safe, and that Maine’s plan will also achieve that.

As of Friday, new Hampshire and Vermont residents will be able to travel to Maine without any worry about quarantine, and Maine residents who travel to those states will be able to return without quarantine requirements. For residents of all other states, the quarantine and related requirements still exist. 

The new plan, allowing for negative tests, takes effect July 1. Heather Johnson said the state will continue to monitor the situation in Maine and other states and will adjust the plan if it can be done safely.

Meanwhile, there are at least two court challenges to the Governor’s quarantine and related plans making their way through the state and federal courts.

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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