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June 1, 2020

Maine hotels and inns can open today, but out-of-staters still have to quarantine

Photo / Maureen Milliken Maine lodging establishments can open today to Maine residents and out-of-staters who have quarantined for 14 days, after a federal judge denied an injuntion that would lift the quarantine.

Lodging businesses across the state can reopen today, but out-of-staters who want to stay at them still have to quarantine in-state for 14 days at a private residence, a federal judge ruled. 

A ruling by Judge Lance Walker of U.S. District Court said the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state failed to prove there are less burdensome measures that would also limit the spread of COVID-19 into the state. He denied an injunction that would lift the quarantine required in Gov. Janet Mills' executive order that which mandates anyone traveling into the state must quarantine for 14 days, except to engage in essential services.

The suit was filed by Bayley's Campground, in Scarborough, and related businesses, as well as Little Ossipee Campground in Waterboro; a New Hampshire resident who spends the camping season at Bayley's; a Maine resident who also camps there; and a part-time Scarborough resident who also lives in Florida and wants to be able to visit friends in New Hampshire and return to the state without quarantining. Others have joined the lawsuit since. They argue that the restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the state do more harm than good.

Walker's ruling came shortly after Mills and Attorney General Aaron Frey pushed back at a U.S. Department of Justice "statement of interest" on the lawsuit that said the order infringed on Americans' constitutional right to travel.

"The executive orders and the restarting plan at issue in this lawsuit were carefully crafted and have been reviewed and updated in order to protect Mainers’ health during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice Friday. "Specifically, the requirement for individuals travelling into Maine from out of state to self-quarantine for 14 days (with exemptions for essential workers) was examined by my office, which determined it was a lawful requirement consistent with Maine’s public health challenges."

Walker, despite denying the injunction, said the suit advances "a civil rights action that has potential."

He depicted the case as pitting "a prudent fear of a possible explosion of infection against a competing ethic best described as the indomitable human desire to enjoy individual liberty and pursue one’s life and livelihood notwithstanding the sort of repercussions that keep epidemiologists and practitioners of the precautionary principle awake at night."

Corrections department to buy restaurant food

Mills directed the Maine Department of Corrections to offer to buy food from restaurants in York, Cumberland and Androscoggin counties that can't open to indoor dining today. Restaurants in those counties were originally part of the Phase 2 reopening that begins today, but Mills ruled Wednesday that hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases are increasing too much in those counties to allow indoor dining.

The move applies to restaurants in the three counties that bought food before Wednesday's announcement. Those that want to take part have to register as a vendor with the state, and payments to vendors typically take two weeks. Restaurant owners must contact corrections Associate Commissioner Karen Yeaton by June 5 and let her know what kind of food they have available, how much and the dollar value.

The department has capacity to buy perishable and non-perishable food items, except for dairy, at a price equivalent to the price paid for the same items through its food contract, according to a news release from Mills. The food will be served to staff and inmates.

“I hope this move will provide some measure of relief to businesses in these counties as we work to protect public health, keep Maine people healthy and alive, and mitigate the spread of this deadly virus so we can safely reopen,” Mills said.

Corrections Commissioner Randall Liberty said the department "stands ready to help businesses in York, Cumberland, and Androscoggin counties, which will in turn support our staff and inmates. We are honored to be of assistance.”

Phase 2 opening underway

Mills also issued an executive order Friday that clarifies some reopening provisions and also firms up face covering messaging.

“It is my responsibility to protect the health and well-being of Maine people and to support our economy," she said when issuing the order. "Throughout this reopening process, I will continue to fight to strike that balance."

The biggest change is that, effective Friday, businesses accessible to the public must post readily visible signs notifying customers of the requirement to wear cloth face coverings where physical distancing is not possible. It allows businesses to deny entry or service to a person not wearing a covering, except those medically exempt from wearing one.

Friday's order also clarifies the Phase 2 reopening rules.

I continue to ask Maine people to stay home whenever possible, not only to protect themselves but to protect others as well, like our front line workers," Mills said. "If and when you do go out, I urge you to stay local and shop local, to stay at least six feet apart from others, to wear a face covering, and, as always, to wash your hands and practice good hygiene. Staying vigilant will save lives and allow us to safely reopen our economy.”

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This Summer is shot for vacationers. Stay home, and die of boredom, or go on the road, and get the virus, and spend the summer in the hospital, or sick at home. It now looks like now with the latest info coming out, even if you survive cov19, you can have permeant organ damage, or a lifetime of inflammatory decease. Evidently this thing can stay with you for all time.

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