AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills on Friday asked travelers coming to Maine from regions hit hard by the new coronavirus to quarantine for two weeks if they visit the state, though there was interfamilial confusion about whether turnpike signs would echo the message.
The Democratic governor said she is concerned people may be traveling from more densely populated areas to Maine because the state of a perceived lack “hot spot” areas for the virus. There have been anecdotal reports of summer residents returning to Maine early.
“That would be a false motivation to come to any state,” Mills told reporters on Friday of anyone coming to the state to wait out the virus.
Mills urged travelers from hard-hit areas to quarantine for up to 14 days — the period between which a person can get the coronavirus and show symptoms — if they visited Maine. She said the request was advisory and that police would not be pulling cars over in a bid to enforce it.
Both Mills and Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, have urged people to live as if the virus is in all parts of the state, though community transmission has only been observed so far in Cumberland and York counties. Maine has seen 168 confirmed cases of the virus and announced its first coronavirus death on Friday.
The governor ordered public-facing nonessential businesses to close for two weeks as of Wednesday to slow the virus’ spread, has closed restaurants to dine-in service and banned social gatherings of more than 10 people. The state closed many coastal parks and beaches Thursday after seeing higher amounts of visitors. Acadia National Park also closed. Tourist areas like Bar Harbor are encouraging tourists to stay home.
Mills said Friday there were plans to post signs at the beginning of the Maine Turnpike in Kittery to advise people coming from areas “more or less” designated a hot spot, “then you must quarantine yourself, whether it’s New York or Massachusetts or any other state,” she said.
However, Peter Mills, the governor’s brother and the executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority, said the message would be too big for its electronic signs and that he did not know about plans for future signage. The authority passed along the governor’s message in a Friday afternoon post on Facebook and it planned to relay it on an AM radio station.
It’s unclear who the request extends to. New York City has seen nearly 30 percent of all U.S. cases so far and is an epicenter of the pandemic, while Chicago, Seattle and California cities have also been hard-hit. Boston, New Orleans and Detroit are emerging as potential epicenters.
After her brother at first contradicted her signage plan, Mills said at the press conference she had been in contact with her brother and said he was “in the process” of doing some signage but didn’t know specifics.
“You’re asking me about signage? That’s not my area of expertise,” the former attorney general said. “They don’t teach that in law school.”