As Maine breaks its own daily coronavirus case records and a spike in deaths and hospitalizations, state officials are adding Massachusetts back onto its list of states with test and quarantine requirements for travel beginning Monday.
Anyone coming to Maine from Massachusetts will either have to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival or quarantine for 14 days, Gov. Janet Mills’ office announced Friday afternoon.
The change comes with coronavirus transmission on the rise in Massachusetts as well. Maine officials noted that Massachusetts has had nearly three times as many cases per capita than Maine over the last two weeks, and a higher test positivity rate as well.
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The change will take effect a week and a half before Thanksgiving, a holiday weekend that Mills and many other public health officials are warning about, given that the virus is believed to spread efficiently in closed spaces where people aren't wearing masks, like around a dinner table.
Mills said she is "extremely concerned" about the virus' spread during gatherings over the holiday.
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“Some of our New England states, including Massachusetts, have demonstrated a concerning increase in the prevalence of the virus over the last two weeks," Mills said in a statement. "To preserve our ability to travel while protecting the health of our loved ones no matter where they live, visitors from Massachusetts and Maine people returning from Massachusetts must now test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine when coming to Maine. I recognize this will be an inconvenience for many, but it is in the interest of public health and can keep people, including our loved ones, healthy and safe this holiday season.”
Maine is dealing with its own coronavirus spike. The state’s positivity rate has jumped from 0.9% on Nov. 1 to 2.5% on Friday, less than a week later, said the director of the state’s Center for Disease Control, Dr. Nirav Shah.
“The surge we’ve predicted has arrived and it’s arrived with force and ferocity,” Shah emphasized.
Asked if state officials had a recommended testing location for visitors driving to visit Maine in need of proof they’re negative for COVID-19, Lambrew recommended those visitors look for a testing location near them at get-tested-covid19.org or use a COVID-19 testing site that has been set up in the Portland International Jetport that is open to the general public as well as people flying.
Vermont and New Hampshire remain exempt from Maine's quarantine and testing rules. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut lost their exemptions earlier this month.
But Connecticut has added Maine to its travel advisory list, which means anyone going there from Maine for more than 24 hours must fill out a health form or quarantine for 14 days unless they qualify for an exemption.
Travelers from Massachusetts were exempt from Maine's travel order for under two months, starting in late September. The restriction earlier in the year, while Maine's coronavirus rates stayed low, meant a slow summer for many Maine businesses, which rely on influxes of tourists from Massachusetts and other states.
The announcement came just as Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was wrapping up a news conference in which he offered his own warning about Thanksgiving, pointing to Canadian Thanksgiving, which was on Oct. 12 this year.
"Two weeks later … their number spiked," Baker said, mimicking the sound of something detonating.