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September 24, 2020

After industry pleas, Mills lifts quarantine-or-test rule for Massachusetts visitors

File Photo / Maureen Milliken Massachusetts travelers to Maine are now exempt from the requirement to quarantine for 14 days or to submit a negative test for COVID-19.

Massachusetts residents are now welcome to visit Maine — and spend money here — without quarantining for two weeks or undergoing a test for COVID-19, Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday.

Maine has lifted the public health restriction for travelers from the Bay State based on the prevalence and positive testing rates for the disease there, Mills said in a news release. Those indicators are now similar to rates in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, which have been exempt from the requirements since July.

“We congratulate our friends to the south on their progress in mitigating the spread of the virus and ask them to continue to take all the appropriate precautions, as we know they will, to protect their health and safety and that of Maine people,” Mills said.

Rhode Island is now the only state in New England whose residents must comply with the quarantine rule. Mills issued Maine’s first quarantine order on April 3 in an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic in its early phases. Visitors from New Hampshire and Vermont were exempted in June.

The restrictions have drawn sharp criticism from some Maine businesses. The state’s tourism and hospitality industries, crippled by the downturn in out-of-state customers, have advocated for more lenient measures. As the summer tourism season came and went, the restriction on Massachusetts visitors remained a sore point in Bar Harbor, where they are the majority of out-of-state visitors.

In Wednesday's announcement, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Heather Johnson said, “Massachusetts visitors play a key role in our tourism economy. We are hopeful for a strong fall tourism season as well as a robust ski season, and we are looking forward to Massachusetts residents being able to safely visit Maine.”

The state encourages Maine lodging facilities to advise visitors that testing is encouraged, even if no longer required for people coming from exempt states, the news release said.

Maine’s per capita rate of COVID-19 infection remains the second-lowest in the country, after Vermont, despite recent outbreaks in York County. On Wednesday afternoon, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention had reported a cumulative total of 5,215 cases, or 39 per 10,000 residents. A total of 140 Mainers have died of the disease.

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