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May 15, 2020

Quarantine requirement poses added challenge for hotels and inns reopening

Photo / Maureen Milliken Maine lodging establishments can begin taking reservations for after June 1 for Mainers, and those from out of state who have quarantined for 14 days.

Hotels and inns can take a first step toward reopening — taking reservations for after June 1 from Maine residents and out-of-staters who have quarantined for the required two weeks.

The move was announced by Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, at Thursday's daily COVID-19 briefing following an email news release from Gov. Janet Mills.

Johnson and Mills said that while the 14-day required quarantine for out-of-state visitors remains, the state and the tourism sector are working on other solutions. Many of the state's visitors are from nearby states, all of which have higher rates of COVID-19 infection than Maine.

That quarantine has been a sticking point, not only for the lodging sector, but the state's tourism industry as a whole, which relies on summer out-of-state visitors for much of its revenue. The Thursday announcement came two days after a group of organizations representing the tourism industry asked Mills to lift the quarantine.

"Visitors need to feel welcome," the letter said, to save an industry that "is on the verge of collapse."

The letter, posted on, the Maine Tourism Association website, was from that organization as well as the Maine Retail Association, HospitalityMaine, Ski Maine Association, Maine Camping Guide, Visit Portland Maine and Visit Greater Bangor Maine.

State officials have said since the state's four-phased reopening approach was announced last month that they will continue to work with different sectors on reopening safely.

"Ultimately, it is the goal of the administration to be able to adjust the 14-day quarantine, but to do so in a way that still protects the health of Maine people," Mills said Thursday.

Johnson reiterated that at the briefing. “We will continue to work closely with the tourism industry to make progress as we head into the summer,” she said.

The quarantine requirement effectively eliminates a key segment of vacationers, those who plan a week or weekend stay.

"It's not an ideal solution," she said. She said there isn't a "one-solution answer," but that any resolution of the quarantine will likely be multi-layered.

Four-page checklist

Thursday's lodging move applies to hotels, motels and other guest accommodations in all 16 counties. They can reopen in line with the parameters established under the Restarting Maine’s Economy plan, which includes strict cleaning and social distancing requirements. The four-page checklist includes requirements for the establishment itself, employees and guests.

They range from a requirement that employees and guests wear masks, reservations in advance, extensive cleaning and distancing measures and more.

They also must be prepared to cancel and fully refund reservations if they can't reopen under the requirements.

Mills' release said that there is ongoing collaboration between her administration and Maine’s tourism and hospitality sectors "to identify innovative and practical solutions to welcome visitors while protecting the health of Maine people and the health of Maine’s economy."

“The tourism and hospitality industries are vital pillars of Maine’s economy," Mills said. "Although the pandemic has altered how they can operate safely, it has in no way diminished their importance — both to our economy and to us as a state.

"We are acting in partnership with the industry to resume reservations while we also work together to evaluate alternatives to the 14-day quarantine, including testing and other protocols, that will allow us to protect Maine residents and tourists during the summer months," Mills said.

A vow of responsibility

The Tuesday letter from the seven tourism groups vowed that their members would follow U.S. Centers for Disease Controls guidelines.

"We take the responsibility for our economic impact on the state seriously," the letter says. "We know that each day that we aren't able to move forward means another front line worker who doesn't have a job, another business at risk of not reopening."

It said members would: 

  • Build, practice, and enforce smart, health and safety protocols that make sense for each business type that supports your administration's checklists;
  • Establish industry-wide protocols for monitoring the health of all staff before they meet or greet our guests or customers; and
  • Work with municipalities and state agencies to ensure open, regular communication.

"We represent the largest single industry in Maine's economy," the letter said. The industry sustains more than 110,000 jobs, generates nearly $9 billion in sales, and contributes more than $600 million in taxes to the state's economy each year.

"It doesn't stop there," the letter said. "Our businesses and employees work with and support thousands of other Maine businesses. From fishing and farming to technology to finance, the interconnectedness of our Maine economy has never been more visible than now, during this pandemic."

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