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Mills Administration says plan to rollback quarantine would encourage tourists to visit Maine

So far the 'COVID passport' plan has gotten 'mixed' feedback from Maine tourism businesses.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Saying tourists want to travel to places “where they feel safe,” the Mills Administration is hoping for a strong response from its proposed plan to again open the state to tourists. There is currently a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine requirement for anyone entering Maine from outside the state, except for essential workers.

Tourism businesses and communities are desperate to have the quarantine requirement lifted, and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Heather Johnson says the administration understands that concern. 

Johnson is leading the effort to find an alternate way to safeguard the state from COVID-19, while still allowing tourists to visit. A few days ago she sent off a draft plan called “Keep ME Healthy” to a variety of tourist businesses and groups for comment. 

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

“We feel this is potentially a compromise that can really protect public safety and look to open the economy,” Johnson told NEWS CENTER Maine on Wednesday.

The Keep ME Healthy plan creates a way around the quarantine requirement by allowing visitors to enter the state without quarantine IF they show proof of a recent negative test for COVID-19. 

 “[It's] a way to be tested in their place of origin, because testing is more available where tourists would be coming from than it is here yet,” Johnson said. 

She added that if someone did test positive, they would simply be able to stay home and not travel. 

And Johnson says that while the goal is to protect Maine people and businesses, the side benefit would potentially make Maine a more appealing place to visit.

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

“The traveler sentiment studies we’re seeing are saying travelers only want to go to places where they feel safe. So that is a key part of this work as well that we create an environment where tourists feel safe, and will be able to come and willing to come and Maine residents feel safe so they are welcoming to tourists as well.”

Johnson says she’s already hearing back from businesses, and that the reaction so far has been “mixed." 

The comments will be used to develop a final plan, which Johnson says she hopes to create very soon. With the busiest part of tourist season starting in July, there is an urgency to get the plan finished and to be able to more easily open Maine to tourism—the largest single business sector in Maine. 

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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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