Keep Maine Healthy
Protecting Maine People and Tourists Amidst COVID-19
The tourism and hospitality industries are vital pillars of Maine’s economy. Both impact nearly every aspect of our state, from supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs across all skill levels, to contributing billions annually to our state’s economy, to driving innovation and entrepreneurship. These industries help put Maine on the map and market our one-of-a-kind opportunities, such as exploring our bold coast, fishing in our pristine lakes and rivers, dining in our acclaimed restaurants, or shopping in our exceptional small businesses.
However, COVID-19 poses a fundamental challenge to these sectors of our economy, particularly as the State seeks to protect the health and safety of Maine residents in the face of a potential influx of millions of visitors. Maine also faces unique challenges: nearly half of Maine’s summer tourists typically come from Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey where the prevalence of COVID-19, when adjusted for population, is eight to eleven times higher than Maine’s. Maine also has the nation's highest percentage of housing that are vacation homes and a short summer season, meaning solutions like capacity constraints do not work.
To protect Maine people, the State implemented in March one of the limited number of tools it had in its possession: a requirement that those entering Maine self-quarantine for a period of 14 days, which is a proven public health strategy to mitigate the spread of the virus. Nearly half the states in the country have implemented some form of quarantine for travelers since the start of the pandemic.
A Multilayered Approach to Keep Maine Healthy
Recognizing the value of the tourism and hospitality industries to Maine’s economy, and knowing that people will travel to locations that are safe, the Mills Administration has been working collaboratively to develop a proposal that aims to protect the health of Maine people and visitors while allowing the opportunity for tourists to enjoy Maine’s incredible summer and support our small businesses.
To that end, the Administration has engaged with tourism and hospitality industry leaders, business owners, local chambers of commerce, public health experts, lawmakers, and municipal officials, among others, to devise the Keep Maine Healthy plan.
Keep Maine Healthy represents a multilayered approach that aims to protect Maine people, protect visitors, and support Maine small businesses by reducing to the greatest extent possible COVID-19 risks associated with travel inherent to tourism.
Keep Maine Healthy rests on three cornerstones:
Testing as an Alternative to Quarantine
Visitors travel to Maine to enjoy our scenery, our outdoors, our restaurants, and our stores. They neither want to quarantine upon arrival nor want to risk their own health when venturing out in places with visitors from across the nation. The same holds true for people with second homes in Maine or Mainers whose work takes them out of state for periods of time.
Under Keep Maine Healthy,
- The State will allow adults who obtain and receive a negative COVID-19 test from a specimen taken no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival to forgo the 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Maine. This test indicates that, even when coming from areas with a higher prevalence of the disease than Maine’s, such visitors are unlikely to have COVID-19 and to spread it to Maine residents and other visitors. Individuals may be tested in Maine, but they must quarantine while awaiting the results.
- Maine is strongly urging visitors to “Know Before You Go,” and be tested and receive results in their home state before traveling to Maine, which will allow them to take appropriate action depending on the result. Websites like Get Tested COVID-19 show local testing options nationwide.
- The State is exempting residents from the following states from the testing and 14-day quarantine requirement for travel and lodging: Vermont and New Hampshire (effective June 26) and Connecticut, New York and New Jersey (effective July 3). When adjusted for population, the prevalence of active cases of COVID-19 in these states is similar or better to that in Maine. Maine considers a number of quantitative and qualitative measures in making this determination, which is designed to protect public health. The State will continue to evaluate exemptions based on public health information.
- People who are not Maine or exempted states must complete a Certificate of Compliance form indicating they have received a negative COVID-19 test result, that they will quarantine in Maine for 14 days, or that they have already completed their quarantine in Maine.
- This Certificate of Compliance must be provided to check-in at all Maine lodging, campgrounds, seasonal rentals, and other commercial lodging, such as Airbnb. Visitors may be asked to furnish proof of the negative test result upon request.
- Signing a compliance form in order to stay in lodging establishments is also a policy employed by both the States of New Hampshire and Vermont.
- The Department of Economic and Community Development will work closely with lodging establishments to communicate the State’s new alternative to quarantine through reservations, which must be taken this summer, and work to advance the message of “Know Before You Go” urging people to be tested at their point of origin through reminders to guests.
- The State’s newly-announced standing order –which allows for most individuals in Maine with elevated risk of exposure to get tested without an order from their own primary care provider – coupled with enhanced testing capacity in July resulting from an agreement with IDEXX, will support testing of tourism workers in Maine and serve as a back-up option for tourists who cannot be tested at home and commit to quarantining in Maine while awaiting results.
Increasing Symptom Checking
Another way to keep Maine safe is to remind people with symptoms of COVID-19 to stay at home and seek medical help. This most often takes the form of several simple questions that revolve around symptoms, travel, and close contacts. Given that at least half of all people with COVID-19 show symptoms, the State will encourage symptom checks through State, local systems, and the private sector, like those already required for some COVID-19 Prevention Checklists utilized by Maine businesses.
Under Keep Maine Healthy,
- Recognizing that symptom checks are of most value at the local level, the Department of Health and Human Services will partner with the Maine Community College System to enlist Maine students in the health professions under the guidance of the Public Health Nursing Program to ask visitors in high-traffic places in tourist destinations, such as visitors’ centers and beach parking lot entrances, about such symptoms and to offer advice on staying well.
- The Department of Transportation will place signs at key sites – such as along major roadways entering Maine, State Parks, or State Ferries – instructing people to stay home or seek medical care if they have symptoms of COVID-19. These signs will also include the requirement that most out-of-state visitors quarantine or get tested for COVID-19.
- High-density private sector businesses, such as museums and retail stores, will be encouraged to use symptom checks as well.
Supporting Local Public Health and Prevention Efforts
Municipal and tribal governments want to keep their businesses, parks, streets, sidewalks, transportation infrastructure, and beaches safe. They are also best positioned to design plans that are responsive to the needs of their individual communities to accomplish these goals. For example, local governments know best the unique layout of their communities, the nuances of their traffic flows, and the distinctions in their parking patterns, which means that they will also be the most effective in creating plans that implement physical distancing and manage traffic into public spaces and businesses. Already, some cities have closed off streets with closely spaced restaurants and stores while considering limiting parking spaces at beaches.
Further, local governments are also well positioned to support best practices for limiting the spread of COVID-19, including, for example, increased cleaning of public restrooms. They can also help State officials promote compliance with COVID-19 Prevention Checklists, which are integral to Maine’s public health efforts to ensure the health and safety of everyone – business owners, employees, clients and tourists. In addition to providing awareness and education, local staff can also play a role in verifying local complaints.
Under Keep Maine Healthy,
- Recognizing that municipalities are on the front lines for community questions and concerns related to COVID-19 and recognizing that many municipalities would like to partner with the state to be part of the solution, the State will incentivize municipalities to develop and implement their own COVID-19 prevention and protection plan by reimbursing municipal costs associated with public health education and prevention activities.
- The State will support up to a total $13 million statewide from the 100 percent federal Coronavirus Relief Fund.
- Local prevention and education plans should include a point of contact for the municipality or Tribal government and one or more of the following:
- Public education activities: This could include printing and posting of existing State or national COVID-19 prevention information and developing local educational activities that are consistent with CDC guidelines. Costs eligible for reimbursement would include staff time for planning and education activities and costs for signage, materials, website development, brochures and mailing.
- Physical distancing and public health support: This could include fences, tape, and signage for physical distancing in public spaces and closed streets; providing staff to limit crowds in front of restaurants, bars, beaches and other sites; new traffic pattern signage and education; purchases of personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to be made available for staff, visitors, and for use at public locations; and extra cleaning supplies and additional staff time required for enhanced cleaning and management of public spaces and restroom facilities.
- Local business assistance: This includes staff time for a Code Enforcement Officer, Local Health Officer, or other person designated by the municipality or Tribe to be the local contact for educating local businesses on best practices. This may include following up on public complaints and, for certain cases, reporting to State officials when there is a potential public health violation that cannot be quickly resolved through educational means.
Ongoing Efforts and Monitoring
The three elements of this plan – testing, symptom checks, and local prevention – will complement the State’s work to raise awareness of best practices to keep Maine safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. To that end, the Department of Health and Human Services has launched a public awareness campaign called “Keep It Maine” (PDF) to motivate people to continue the COVID-19 prevention best practices that have helped Maine maintain its low case counts compared to other states.
Throughout this process, Maine CDC will monitor epidemiological data, as it has throughout the entire reopening process, including case trends, hospitalization rates, and reports of COVID-like symptoms, as well as health care readiness and capacity.
If a review of these metrics in their totality and in context, finds evidence of a concerning increase in COVID-19, the State reserves the right to move swiftly to limit harm and protect Maine people, including the potential of rolling back some sector-specific re-openings in a community or region.