MAINE, USA — As of Saturday, there is no need to quarantine or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test if you are traveling to Maine. The Pine Tree State is welcoming all travelers from all states without imposing any COVID-19 requirements. According to the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention, the state is now embracing an "all states exempt unless specified" model beginning May 1, 2021.
However, the strict-free policy could end at any moment. Dr. Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the policy could change based on the spread of variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. The policy change is based on a successful travel season last summer.
The introduction of vaccines also played a role in the decision. Shah told the Associated Press, "It’s a good idea to be tested when returning to Maine from an out-of-state visit."
Effective May 1, travelers will no longer be required to test or quarantine when they come into Maine. Shah, however, said this may change depending on other states' increase in cases and variants. He said the Maine CDC reviews that data from time to time and as of right now, there are no states that are on that exceptions list because of a high prevalence of variants, "but that may change as we get further and further into the summer."
Shah said this is in recognition of a couple of things:
- A successful travel season in summer 2020. Shah said although Maine had a number of travelers coming into the state, there was very little transmission associated.
- An increasing number of people around the country are getting vaccinated. Shah said vaccination rates are increasing and with that, the likelihood that any one individual may pose a risk to someone in Maine goes does down.
The news of lifted travel restrictions is welcome news too local businesses based around tourism.
"Everyone wants lobster, they want to get on the water. They want to come out and see the world again," said Terry Morrison, general manager of the Inn at St. John in Portland.
"Our reservations in January when all of the restrictions were in place was about 39%. And now we've jumped up to around 79, 80%," added Morrison.
It's the first weekend in more than a year visitors can come to Maine without needing to provide a negative test or quarantine. Maine Tourism Association CEO Tony Cameron believes this is the start to revival for Maine's tourism industry after a challenging 2020 amid the pandemic.
"We knew that people wanted to travel and get out, and so having the ability for people to plan in advance is incredible beneficial to the industry," said Cameron.
The changes to Maine travel restrictions were announced in early March as part of Gov. Mills 'Moving Maine Forward' plan.
Businesses have been eyeing this May 1st date as well in anticipation addition travelers. The Maine Brews Cruise, formerly known as the Maine Brew Bus, was able to host it's first Bike + Brew tour for the year on Saturday.
"We're very optimistic, I think that with the restrictions lifted , it makes it a little easier for travelers to come and visit and plan even last minute trip, we see a lot of last minute bookings," said co-owner Zach Poole.
The next step in the 'Moving Maine Forward' plan is to increase capacity limits. On May 24, outdoors capacity limits increase to 100%, while indoor capacity increases to 75%.
"We all need vacations, so we're excited to be able to welcome a lot more people back this year," said Cameron.