Governor Mills: We want to save both the lives and livelihoods of Maine people.

June 12, 2020

This week my Administration unveiled the "Keep Maine Healthy" plan to protect the health of Maine people while encouraging tourists to visit Maine safely, supporting our small businesses and their workforce during these crucial summer months.

Hello this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

The plan is the result of weeks of discussion and engagement with tourism and hospitality folks, business owners, chambers of commerce, public health experts, lawmakers, town officials, and others.

Here are the basics:

Under the plan, adults – not children – who took and received a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before a visit, may forgo the 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Maine.

A negative test indicates that, even when they come from areas with a higher prevalence of the disease than Maine’s, such people are unlikely to have COVID-19 with a negative test or to spread it to Maine residents and other visitors and workers.

So, we strongly urge visitors to "Know Before You Go," meaning they should get tested and receive their test results in their home state before coming to Maine.

We are exempting residents of New Hampshire and Vermont from testing and 14-day quarantine altogether, as of Friday June 12th, because the prevalence of active cases of COVID-19 in those states is pretty similar to Maine’s based on population.

By contrast, in places like Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey – where nearly half of Maine’s tourists come from – the virus is eight to eleven times more prevalent than in Maine. Those individuals will be able to stay in a lodging facility in Maine starting June 26th.

We are also stepping up our game on symptom checking to keep everybody safe.

The Department of Health and Human Services has teamed up with Maine community colleges to enlist students in the health professions so they may go out and ask visitors in those high-traffic places in tourist destinations about symptoms and offer advice on staying healthy.

We are also offering financial incentives to the towns to develop their own COVID-19 prevention and protection plans — that’s federal money to help the towns develop these plans. 

Throughout the coming weeks and months, Maine CDC will monitor epidemiological data, as it has throughout the entire reopening process — case trends, hospitalization rates, reports of COVID-like symptoms, as well as health care readiness and capacity.

There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has loomed large over our tourism industry — an industry that is already severely affected by travel restrictions on Canadian visitors; by a downturn in the economy nationally and by a decrease in consumer spending across the country.

Some people are afraid that tourist traffic will increase the spread of the virus, while many small businesses fear that if visitors don’t come, they will have to close their doors permanently.

Well I am also deeply concerned about our economy. But boy I can think of nothing worse, nothing more devastating than an outbreak or resurgence of this deadly untreatable virus at the height of tourist season. Nothing would be worse for our economy and for the tourism industry in particular. I want visitors and staff and the public all to know that they are protected, by every means possible.

You know I get messages every day from people who are grateful that Maine has remained a safe state to live in and that the hard work of our public health people has kept our numbers low. This new plan aims to keep those numbers low and to keep people safe. And it is working.

Just the other day one person wrote:

"My husband works in healthcare… in Maryland. [Other than] FaceTime, I haven’t seen him since early March. We [were planning] … he would drive from Maryland … to Maine, [so] we were upset with Gov. Mills’ announcement [and] concerned that he wouldn’t be [coming into] the state so he proactively took a COVID-19 test...He learned just two hours ago that he’s COVID positive. He is asymptomatic… [but] this was a clear shot across the bow for our family [and] we have an extended "familial bubble" that includes an immuno-compromised family member which may have led to devastating consequences."

This family’s story is exactly why we developed this plan. By creating layers of protection to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus we can protect the public health, establish Maine as a safe place to visit, and invite tourists to come here safely and support our economy.

We want to save both the lives and livelihoods of Maine people.

This is Governor Janet Mills. Thank you for listening.