AUGUSTA, MAINE – Members of the group Work With ME are once again expressing frustration at Maine’s reluctance to allow out-of-state visitors in states with favorable COVID-data to enter Maine without restrictions. Currently, Massachusetts and Rhode Island residents are not allowed to visit Maine without cumbersome restrictions. Residents of those states can freely visit other New England states, leaving Maine at a serious and dangerous disadvantage for tourism visitors and dollars.
“On behalf of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, I would like to express our disappointment that at Tuesday’s COVID-19 Press Conference, the Administration did not open Massachusetts and Rhode Island to tourism,” said Dana Connors, president and CEO of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “In particular Massachusetts, as the number one feeder market for tourism, its exclusion will continue to have a negative impact on our summer tourism based businesses.”
The vast amount of publicly available data has shown clearly for weeks that Massachusetts and Rhode Island have recovered from the infection levels that they, like the rest of the populated Northeast States, had experienced. In fact the positive test rate in Massachusetts is lower today than other States were when they were granted exemption by the Governor. There are no longer any metrics that demonstrate the need to treat them differently from New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Connecticut, or New Jersey.
“We are very disappointed because we had expected the governor would exempt Massachusetts and Rhode Island on Tuesday to be consistent with the other New England states”, said Steve Hewins, president and CEO of Hospitality Maine. “The longer this continues, and that gatherings like weddings remain limited to 50 people, the more jobs are lost and businesses permanently closed.”
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said earlier in the month that he also doesn’t understand the restriction on Massachusetts residents entering Maine.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, MD, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) praised Massachusetts’ response to COVID-19 earlier this month, as the state’s key indicators continued to fall.
“All frontline workers in the Maine Tourism industry have done a great job in providing a safe and healthy visitor experience. The results of this hard work are evident in the continuously low numbers in Maine. The Governor needs to have faith in the hospitality workforce and allow our visitors from Massachusetts and Rhode Island to travel without restrictions,” said Eben Salvatore, operations manager for Bar Harbor Resorts.
A group of hotel owners have been communicating with the Mills administration since the spring, aiming toward a responsible reopening plan for the tourism industry. Both the Mills administration and Work With ME have been leaning on state-by-state data for decision making. The concern of those involved in Work With ME is the ability to salvage some of Maine’s tourism season while balancing safety measures that would be necessary with visitors entering Maine.
A COVID-19-specific lodging readiness course was developed by Hospitality Maine in conjunction with Eastern Maine Community College, and was made live in June. Completion of the course would support the State of Maine’s prevention checklist for lodging. The same groups developed a restaurant readiness course, which went live in May. Hospitality employees are taking the courses to ensure proper education around safety protocols in anticipation of allowing visitors into the state again. To date, nearly 3,000 hospitality workers are now certified with the state’s checklist, many of which having done so by taking the course.More details can be found at www.WorkWithMaine.com.