Maine's Tourism Industry Pushes Back on Quarantine for Visitors — With Exceptions

While some industry representatives wrote to Gov. Janet Mills hoping to save the season, one business owner said, “All businesses are not reunited in the call to end the quarantine”

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There are no easy answers right now for Mainers who rely on tourists for income. A 14-day mandatory quarantine is in place for out-of-state visitors to keep the coronavirus from spreading.

But representatives of Maine restaurants, hotels, ski areas, campgrounds and retail stores are calling to rescind the restriction in a new letter they sent to Gov. Janet Mills.

“We need your help,” the Maine tourism industry representatives said in a video version of the letter. “Maine’s tourism industry is on the verge of collapse.”

For Steve Hewins, who heads HospitalityMaine, which represents over 1,000 businesses like hotels and eateries, the lack of a welcoming message to tourists as peak season approaches has meant cancellations for his members and staggering losses in revenue.

“It’s really no season under the current scenario,” he said.

Some popular parks and beaches have begun to reopen in Maine, with restrictions, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Hewins had been hopeful Maine would have had a virus testing system set up by now to allow visitors in safely.

But now, he said, the absolute latest date to create a workable plan is a month past and Mills should look at ways businesses can reopen to non-Mainers. Business owners are ready to do whatever it takes to do so safely, he added.

“She has to rely on the industry to police themselves,” he said. “I think the industry is ready to do that.”

Not all business owners agree.

Erin Kiley, who co-owns Flea for All, which sells second-hand furniture and clothes in Portland, has drafted a letter with dozens of signatories asking Mills to keep the quarantine in place.

“All businesses are not reunited in the call to end the quarantine,” she said.

Health care workers and other essential employees were honored Tuesday by the Maine Air National Guard with a military flyover.

Kiley and the other businesses who signed on to her request, including Portland restaurants like Drifter’s Wife, said they don’t feel safe opening their doors to people who aren’t from Maine and haven’t isolated. They've have worked too hard to keep Maine’s coronavirus case numbers relatively low, they said.

“Adding tourism to that mix right now seems really dangerous,” Kiley said.

Asked what would change her group’s minds, Kiley said a robust testing strategy to identify people carrying the virus would put them at ease.

She wants to open up as soon as possible and pushed the City of Portland to ensure non-essential businesses could operate with curbside and online sales, but the economic risks don’t outweigh the health ones just yet in what she sees as an especially vulnerable city.

“I think we can do this right, Maine is doing it right and we need to keep doing it right,” she explained.

All non-essential businesses in Portland, Maine, will have to close or begin remote operations.

As for where the Mills administration stood on the issue on Thursday, a press release said her team “has a goal of adjusting the quarantine in a way that still protects the Maine people.”

No actual change to the enforceable order was announced. However, the administration did say lodging businesses could begin taking reservations from Maine residents and non-residents who’ve done the quarantine for stays June 1 and beyond.

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