There are a lot of big changes for anyone thinking of a going on a trip to Maine or planning an event there this year.
As of Friday morning, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island are no longer on the state’s travel advisory list, which requires residents of certain states to quarantine for 10 days or test negative for COVID-19 when visiting Maine. New Hampshire and Vermont were already off the list.
In addition, people who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, along with those who have had COVID-19 within 90 days of their trip and recovered, will also be exempt from the requirements.
“Maine is open,” said Maine Gov. Janet Mills during a news briefing on the economic plan, adding that tourists are “more than welcome to come here and hang out on the beaches and mountains.”
Mills’ directive also outlines a further shift away from travel restrictions on May 1, when all U.S. states will be exempt from the quarantine or test requirement, except for those that present a COVID-19 concern, as deemed by Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The vaccine, that’s the gamechanger here, we know it works,” said Jeanne Lambrew, the commissioner of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services.
She explained that the combination of public health measures that “worked” last summer, combined with more vaccinations, is what gives officials confidence about their proposal.
New guidelines on indoor and outdoor gathering limits were also released on Friday.
Right now, gatherings are limited to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. But on March 26 through May 23, that indoor limit will increase to 50% of permitted occupancy or five people per 1,000 square feet for retail establishments, whichever's greater. The outdoor limit will increase to 75% of permitted occupancy.
Then, on May 24, those indoor limits will go up again to 75% of permitted occupancy or 50 people, whichever's greater, with 5 people per 1,000 square feet for retail spaces. Outdoor limits will increase to 100% of permitted occupancy.
The occupancy changes are welcome news for people employed in Maine’s wedding and events sector, who rely on large gatherings to make their living.
“Thrilled would be the word I would use,” said Reuben Bell, the president and co-founder of Blue Elephant Events & Catering.
Bell explained that he had clients from California, Connecticut and New Mexico contacting him on Friday excited about the changes and that their events may move forward this year in as close to a pre-pandemic fashion as possible.
“We’ve been dealing with worried clients since the beginning of the year,” he said, adding that “we can all contact our clients for May, June, July and August and say, ‘Hey, here’s what we’re going to do.’”
One state requirement that officials say there is no plan to change is Maine’s mandate requiring masks be worn in all indoor and outdoor public spaces. Mills said there was no immediate timeline to change that protocol as of Friday.