Maine is changing its rules for out-of-state visitors just days before the July 4 holiday weekend.
Beginning Friday, people from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey can all visit the state without having to quarantine for two weeks or present proof of a negative coronavirus test.
Gov. Janet Mills announced the change Wednesday afternoon, which now make Massachusetts and Rhode Island the only two New England states with residents who still have to observe the restrictions -- Vermont and New Hampshire were already exempted.
“Based on where things stand right now, the positivity rate in Massachusetts is still a good bit higher than that in Maine,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, explaining what led the state to continue restrictions for travelers from the Bay and Ocean states.
Asked what travelers from the New York tri-state area should do if they are considering stopping in Massachusetts while driving to Maine or if that’s a concern, Shah said, “It’s a possibility but I don’t know that it poses a large risk from a public health standpoint.”
For the remaining New Englanders and others who still have to quarantine or get tested, a relatively new spot to do that is being highlighted by the Mills administration.
A drive-thru COVID-19 test site is now set up at 701 Forest Avenue in Portland, outside a building that was once a pharmacy.
According to state and local officials, the tests are free and subsidized with federal money, though Steve Morris, a Portland resident who used the facility said he had to present an ID and an insurance card.
“Our family was out of state for about eight to 10 days so I figured...I might as well just try it,” said Morris, adding, “it was a very easy and professional experience.”
Within a span of a couple days, Morris said he received his negative test result and has still not received a bill for the services, unlike others who got tests elsewhere and paid amounts in excess of $150.
Asked if visitors to Maine who have to present proof of negative tests ought to consider the Forest Avenue site as an option when they visit, Morris said yes: “A two-day quarantine would be far more preferable to 14 days if I were coming to town.”
On Wednesday, Mills and members of her administration reiterated their preference that people visiting Maine who need tests should try to get them ahead of time in their home state and have the negative result in hand before traveling to avoid quarantining while they await test results in Maine.
The testing rules have been criticized by some in the tourism industry, which relies on out-of-state travelers in the summers.
More information on the "Know Before You Go" regulations are available at this site.
The Mills administration also announced Wednesday that, given the influx of travelers this summer, it would be requiring the state's rules on face coverings to be enforced in requiring "Maine’s large retail stores, lodging establishments, restaurants, and outdoor bars and tasting rooms in the coastal counties of Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland, and York, and in the more populous cities of Bangor and Brewer and Lewiston and Auburn," a statement said.