(AUGUSTA, ME) – In response to the citizens of Maine, communities, businesses, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Hospitality Maine and other groups, Legislative Republicans are proposing a plan that would help salvage the remainder of Maine’s tourism season. Until now, only residents of New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York are permitted to enter Maine without prohibitive restrictions. The Republican plan would immediately add residents from Massachusetts and Rhode Island to the state’s exempt list, meaning they may visit Maine without restrictions. Statistically, more tourists to Maine come from Massachusetts each year than any other state.
“Without a chance at salvaging part of the tourism season, businesses and livelihoods are being destroyed,” said Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow (R-Lincoln). “This plan responsibly allows residents from throughout New England into Maine without restrictions, which is in line with what every other state in New England is already doing. All of the data we are seeing tells us that this is a move that can be done safely, and the tourism industry will have a fighting chance to finish out the season on an upswing.”
Also in the Republican plan is the addition of states with a 7-day Positive Testing Rate (PTR) of 5% or less to the exempt list. The list would be updated each Friday, and currently has 18 states on it including those in New England as well as New York and New Jersey. The 5% threshold is consistent with guidance provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has defined countries / states that are below that level to be doing a good job at containing the COVID-19 virus and present low-to-moderate risk.
The Republican Plan also includes increasing the gathering size of individuals from a maximum of 50 to 150 inside or outside, as long as proper distancing can be achieved. This move would put the state closer to other New England states’ gathering sizes and allow the people of Maine to compete for business. New Hampshire no longer has a group limit at all, Vermont has a 150 outdoor limit and 75 indoors, Rhode Island has 150 outdoor limit and 50 indoors, Connecticut allows 100 outdoors and 25 indoors, Massachusetts limits 100 outdoors and 25 indoors. The increase in Maine would not change any of the protocols that protect employees, residents and visitors that are currently in place.
In addition the plan calls for the elimination of the testing requirement for visitors as the process has never materialized. Testing in New England is not nearly as accessible as previously believed when the mandate was announced June 8. What limited testing sites that are available are problematic on several levels. The test is not free, many of the sites require a doctor’s screening and in some cases the results take more than 72 hours. Free and available testing seems unlikely in the near future. Even today the State’s “Standing Order” for testing does not allow visitors access to be tested to meet the Governor’s mandate.
“It is vital to our state’s economic health to allow tourism businesses to operate safely,” said Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake (R-Androscoggin). “Thousands of jobs and small businesses are suffering because of overly restrictive and unnecessary policies. The Republican plan is based in facts, common sense, and most of all transparency. We urge our colleagues across the aisle to support it and do what is best for Maine people and to establish a clear and transparent policy with benchmark numbers similar to New York and Rhode Island.”
The Republican plan would still require those entering Maine from outside the U.S. or from one of the states above the 5% threshold to self-quarantine for 14 days or achieve a negative test within 72 hours prior to arrival or once arriving in Maine. It also still requires masks to be worn in public and encourages people to follow physical distancing guidelines at all times.
“We know the Administration has heard pleas from people all over the state. We have listened to our constituents, Republican members of the Maine House and Senate, as well as communities, businesses and business leaders all over the state, and this is the right thing to do,” said Assistant House Republican Leader Harold ‘Trey’ Stewart (R-Presque Isle).
“Maine businesses have proven that they can operate in a safe and responsible manner during a pandemic,” said House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham (R-Oxford). “We have not seen dramatic changes in our COVID case rate by opening to other states. Yet Massachusetts – a state with data similar to our own – must continue to quarantine while New York, the state with the second highest infection rate in the country, is exempted. It is time to let the hard working people in the tourism industry open their doors a little wider, afford our neighbors in Massachusetts a chance to come to Maine, and give our tourism sector the opportunity to salvage the end of summer.”
Republican leadership plans to formally present the plan immediately.