Maine quarantine order, virus testing nix Acadia vacations

Update: In an important boost for the struggling hospitality industry in Bar Harbor, the Maine governor on July 1 exempted residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from restrictions that require people traveling into Maine to either quarantine or test negative for the virus. The governor noted that the prevalence of the virus in these three states is similar to Maine and continues a downward trend. Starting July 3, residents of NY, NJ and the Nutmeg state join New Hampshire and Vermont residents, who were previously exempt from the travel restrictions.

A leading business group says Bar Harbor faces a “catastrophic closing of businesses” and a tourism season that is “all but lost”  after a spate of new lodging cancellations caused by the Maine quarantine order and other tough new restrictions on out-of-state visitors this summer.

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Acadia amid COVID-19: Another in a series (NPS photo)

Starting June 26, according to the executive order issued by Maine Gov. Janet Mills last week, people who travel into Maine and check into Maine lodging, campgrounds, seasonal rentals or Airbnbs will be asked to sign a certificate of compliance saying that they tested negative for coronavirus within 72 hours of arrival, will quarantine in Maine for 14 days on arrival, or that they have already completed their quarantine in Maine. A final certificate of compliance was released on June 12.

The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted unanimously in opposition to Gov. Janet Mills’s new “Keep Maine Healthy” plan. The chamber asked Mills to reconsider, saying her plan is unworkable and too onerous for most visitors to comply.

“With each new update to the requirements for visitors, our lodging establishments receive an influx of cancellations,” wrote Alf  Anderson, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, in a message sent to the 420 members of the chamber after the board vote. “Guests who are waiting for news that they will be allowed to travel to Maine without burdensome restrictions are forced to give up hope and cancel their existing reservations.”

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The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce’s website overlays a message, “Keeping Bar Harbor Safe During the COVID-19 Era,” on this otherwise picturesque scene. (Image courtesy of Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce)

Because of its more remote location on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor has an economy that depends on overnight guests including many coming to visit nearby Acadia National Park.

Acadia opened some services like the Park Loop Road on June 1 to kick off a season that is expected to see lower visitation because of the Maine quarantine order.

Campgrounds at Acadia remain closed until at least July 1 and the operation of the Island Explorer, the park’s fare-free shuttle system, which usually starts June 23, is indefinitely postponed.

Two aspects of park operations are affected by Keep Maine Healthy. First,  a 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors is still in effect, the park says. Second, is that gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited through August.

“The website is being worked on since the information about quarantining is a bit more nuanced now,” Christie Anastasia, public affairs specialist at Acadia, wrote in an email. “We are doing our part in helping the state of Maine share information related to COVID-19.”

Maine quarantine order spurs new round of lodging cancellations

Mills’s new plan for tourism, released on Monday, sparked new cancellations for bookings in Bar Harbor this summer and Acadia during the Maine quarantine order.

Alf Anderson

Alf Anderson, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce (Photo courtesy of Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce)

“With yesterday’s announcement from Governor Mills, there was another round of lodging cancellations and we have now reached a point where our season is all but lost,” Anderson wrote to members. “We are in dire need of immediate action to avoid a catastrophic closing of businesses.”

Many people are commenting on the Acadia National Parking Hiking public group Facebook page, with about a dozen in the past week saying they are canceling or considering canceling trips to Acadia because of the governor’s travel restrictions.

Mills’s order is similar to travel mandates in Alaska and Hawaii, but more confining than some other New England states and many other states with travel restrictions, according to an analysis of a list of coronavirus-related restrictions in every state by the AARP and list of state travel restrictions by Ballotpedia.

The Maine quarantine order is also facing a loud outcry from Maine tourism and hospitality businesses. In  neighboring New Hampshire, by contrast, there was little criticism of a lower-level quarantine ordered by the governor of the Granite State.

In Massachusetts, the self-quarantine is guidance, and in New Hampshire, hotels could start taking reservations on June 5, but visitors from other states must attest that they have remained in their home, even if in another state, for the prior 14 days.

The Vermont governor relaxed travel restrictions effective June 8, allowing people in mostly rural counties in New England and upstate New York to visit Vermont with no self-quarantine.

Visits to drop this summer during Maine quarantine order

Starting June 12, New Hampshire and Vermont residents were exempt from travel restrictions  in Maine.

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Gov. Janet Mils

The Maine governor’s order targets states that have sent a higher percent of visitors to Acadia National Park such as Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey.

There is no end date for Mills’s plan.

In her executive order, Mills noted that visits to Maine  from residents of other states are expected to plummet this summer, from 22 million last year to at least 7 to 10 million this year, but even the lower numbers still pose a significant threat to public health. She said that half of visitors would come from states with per capita COVID-19 case rates that are eight to eleven times higher than that of Maine.

Mills also said that testing is more widely available in Maine since she first issued her 14-day quarantine order on April 3.

Visitors still would need to possibly pay for a swab test and maybe face a logistical struggle in attempting to schedule the test, and get results, within 72 hours of traveling into Maine.

Bar Harbor sees sharp decline in parking meter revenues

The Bar Harbor Town Council also weighed in with a letter to Mills, citing possible privacy issues if a traveler submits test results to a hotel clerk and sharp reductions in municipal parking revenues and spending at local businesses

acadia amid covid-19

COVID-19 alert atop the town of Bar Harbor website reminds visitors of the pandemic behind the scenery. (Image courtesy of town of Bar Harbor)

The letter came after the council voted unanimously to ask the governor to eliminate the 14-day quarantine and take other steps.

In the letter to Mills, the council cited some steep drops in spending at local businesses – and the town’s parking receipts. The quarantine is particularly devastating to businesses and unreasonable for travelers, who would have to isolate and stay away from public places, except for medical appointments.

“We have heard from many businesses that their revenues are down by 90 percent compared to last year and that is backed up by the town’s parking revenue, which is also down 90 percent,” said the letter signed by Jeff Dobbs, chair of the Bar Harbor Town Council, on June 3.

Jeff Dobbs

Jeff Dobbs, chair of the Bar Harbor Town Council, wrote to the Maine governor, saying testing of tourists is impractical. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Dobbs)

Revenues from meters, kiosks and pay-by-phone customers parking in paid parking spaces in Bar Harbor during the 2019 season was $1.663 million, or more than twice the amount of revenue projected in earlier studies. Seasonal paid public parking downtown began last year in Bar Harbor.

The council’s letter said the centerpiece of Keep Maine Healthy was impractical. “That would require millions of COVID-19 tests in a very short period of time and most CVS and Walgreens perform 50 tests per day. Additionally, the visitor testing creates customer privacy issues where the hotel clerk would be responsible for customer medical information.”

Anderson, of the Bar Harbor chamber, told members that he shared the chamber’s view in a letter to Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

Businesses support testing of certain employees and other options

Anderson and the town council’s letter also suggested an alternative by the Downeast COVID-19 Task Force which has a plan that focuses on community and customer-facing employee testing rather than visitor testing or quarantining.

“This method would remove the burden of visitors getting tested and offer a clear way to monitor the health of our community,” Anderson wrote.

Mills’s executive order of June 9 delegates her wide emergency powers, including those  to control people who enter and leave the state and those who occupy premises in the state of Maine.

The order gives broad authority to enforce the law to any government official that licenses or permits lodging operations or campgrounds.

Lodging establishments, campgrounds, rentals, and other short-term rentals must inform guests of the Maine quarantine order or testing requirement and are encouraged to send copies of the certificate of compliance to guests before arrival.

Maine is strongly urging visitors to “Know Before You Go,” meaning they should get tested and receive their test results in their home state before traveling to Maine, according to a press release from Mills. Individuals may be tested upon arrival in Maine as well, but they must quarantine while awaiting the results.

News visitors can use before booking or cancelling Acadia vacations

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COVID-19 message tops a pre-pandemic Sand Beach scene on the Acadia website. (Image courtesy of NPS)

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Out-of-state visitors need to certify compliance and Maine lodging establishments need to keep this certificate on file for 30 days. (Image courtesy of Maine.gov)

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Acadia’s phased reopening schedule as of the latest update (Image courtesy of NPS)

14 thoughts on “Maine quarantine order, virus testing nix Acadia vacations

  1. Russ

    I live in MA and travel to my property in Maine often until now. With the new changes the Governor is demanding the cost of testing my family of 4 is $640 or I can choose to not go anywhere and see anyone, so what’s the point of going up? This is going to hurt stores and businesses in Maine because out-of-state people won’t want to pay the $160 for each test and certainly not want to pay a 1,000 fine. They should have left it with wearing masks.

    Reply
    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Russ. The Bay State on Sept. 23 was exempted from the Maine travel restrictions to test negative or quarantine, but Massachusetts is no longer exempt as of Nov. 16. NH and VT are the only states currently exempt. You might want to check out the protocols for a Maine quarantine on a state web site. A 14-day quarantine might not be as draconian as it sounds. According to information on the state web site, visitors who quarantine may not interact with others outside their travel party or go into public spaces like shops and restaurants, but, as long as they wear a mask, they can hike, bike, take a scenic drive and get takeout or delivered meals, for example. Also, if you are 18 and under, you do no need to be tested. Here is the web site. https://bit.ly/2XMn7Tu

      Reply
    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      According to the Maine Tourism Association, for those who do quarantine, those regulations remain the same:

      Beginning June 26th, out-of-state visitors may quarantine in commercial lodging establishments for 14 days. During the quarantine, visitors cannot go to places with other people like restaurants, stores, and grocery stores, or pick up take-out. A lodging establishment may arrange for take-out, delivery, or grocery services for the visitors.
      Visitors can leave their hotel room or campsite during these 14 days but only for limited outdoor activities such as hiking as long as they are not around other people.
      Visitors can come to Maine and quarantine for the length of their stay if it is less than 14 days

      Reply
  2. Donna Chadderton

    And then some out of state visitors who quarantined at home for 14 days before coming to Maine, or tested negative 3 days before coming to Maine, might pick up Covid-19 in public restrooms on the way to Maine.
    Covid-19 has been spreading around this country since last December. Get real. Put on a mask if that makes you feel better. Use sanitizer. Socially distance. And get on with life.

    Reply
  3. L.Sullivan

    I live in Massachusetts 40 miles west of Boston. We are a small town we have or had a total of 30 covid -19. I will get the test because it’s the law in Maine and Iam staying in a small motel that I know the owner and wouldn’t want anything happen to her. Maybe Maine should have considered not all of Massachusetts has got the high numbers that Boston had. I live on the border of Nashua a Nh and Mass. And Nashua has rising in covid pts. Vermont has been having increases. But yet they are allowed to be exempt from the testing ! It doesn’t make sense. Consider the small towns in Massachusetts that have small amount like my town. Iam on immunosuppressive medications. I have been self quarantined since March 17. I know the risks all too well. In Massachusetts they don’t give you a paper with results so I will have nothing to show for my test. So what the point a lot of people will lie.

    Reply
  4. Mrs. I

    What about the Mainers? Why should New Yorkers be tested and then get the virus from a Mainer? Ridiculous!
    We are devastated that we may miss our once a year vacation! We love Mzine, especially Ogunquit where we stay.

    Reply
  5. Jeanette Matlock

    I feel for those in Maine who rely on tourism to make a living. We have plans for a visit in October. Watching the news & praying that if conditions improve (no or minuscule cases), coupled with shorter testing result turn-around, that we might be able to come visit. I plan to pack & use masks, hand sanitizer, etc. Have been working with the 2 places we have lodging reservations & everyone has been kind & understanding. I miss being in Maine so much. I understand the need to protect Maine’s citizens.

    Reply
    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Jeanette. You have summed up the feelings of a lot of people from other states who like to come to Maine every summer. The traveling restrictions in Maine are a barrier for people who want to stay overnight at commercial lodging. There is currently no end date for the restrictions. It is good that October is several months ahead, so a lot could happen between now and your planned vacation to Acadia. If you still need a test for adults traveling into Maine, then you also have time to arrange for those. Some places like MDI Hospital currently require provider referral for a test.

      Reply
      1. Mark I

        ? We are travelling on an extended road trip. The reason why Maine was on the list is because we can distance the whole time while hiking. We will be in NY, VT & NH prior to arrival so the 72 hour result thing doesn’t work. We would love to get while in Maine but will only be there four days. Is Acadia & Hiking at distance considered OK under the quarantine? Thanks for your help!

        Reply
        1. Acadia on my mind Post author

          Mark — Thank you for commenting. The definition of a quarantine in Maine is unclear, maybe intentionally. On its web site, the Witham Family Hotels, which owns and operates 13 hotel properties along the coast of Maine, has an FAQ that includes:

          Do I have to quarantine for 14 days either in Maine or my home state before I check-in?

          “No, the State of Maine allows all visitors starting June 26 to participate in the Maine Quarantine while staying at a hotel. While on your stay with us you are free to enjoy the outdoors for a variety of activities such as walking, hiking, and biking including in Acadia National Park and surrounding areas. The Maine Quarantine applies to any visit between 1 and 14 days. You will need to observe social distancing from those not in your party.”

          On its web site, the Maine Tourism Association says: “During the quarantine, visitors cannot go to places with other people like restaurants, stores, and grocery stores, or pick up take-out. A lodging establishment may arrange for take-out, delivery, or grocery services for the visitors.
          Visitors can leave their hotel room or campsite during these 14 days but only for limited outdoor activities such as hiking as long as they are not around other people.
          Visitors can come to Maine and quarantine for the length of their stay if it is less than 14 days.”

          Reply
  6. JAMES LINNANE

    Too bad that you do not have a link to the Downeast COVID-19 Task Force.
    It seems like there could be some wiggle room if the lodger agrees to quarantine during their stay and the host takes care of their needs during that time. It would be something like the old American Plan that resort hotels used to feature. Witham and Ocean Properties could pull that off.

    Reply
    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Good stuff, Jim. If you do quarantine for 14 days, there is indeed some room to enjoy hiking, biking and kayaking. Under the Mills order, visitors in quarantine cannot go to public places such as restaurants, stores and grocery stores, pickup or take out, according to the Maine Tourism Association. Beginning July 1, out-of-state visitors may quarantine in commercial lodging establishments for 14 days. During the quarantine, visitors cannot go to places with other people like restaurants, stores, and grocery stores, or pick up take-out. However, lodging operators can arrange and handle the take-out, delivery, or grocery services for the visitors.
      Visitors can leave their hotel room or campsite during these 14 days but only for limited outdoor activities such as hiking as long as they are not around other people. At least one lodging operator we spoke with, Kristin Hutchins of Hutchins Cottages in Acadia, says it is extra work to go to the supermarket and handle takeout for guests, but she is willing to do it if makes the difference. It still is a tough spot, and awkward to work with the lodging operator on everything, but if all you want is to hike, then you might meet the requirements to allow you to drive to Acadia and find a trail without a lot of parking and go off hours. The other option for entering Maine — Testing — would also be difficult, too, because of the timing of results needed within 72 hours of entering Maine. You would also need to be able to get the results online and fairly quickly, so if it is not your hospital provider, that might not be so easy. It might be best to get tested at home, get the results and then drive to Maine. It could cost you some extra money for the test, too, so people would need to check with their provider. You don’t have to present the results necessarily; you just have to certify that you received them and they were negative. Thanks for the advice on the link to the Covid-19 Task Force.

      Reply

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