The rocky coast attracts visitors to a scenic overlook in South Portland, Maine, not far from the iconic Portland Head Light, background, Monday, May 18, 2020. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

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Tourism in Maine generates $9 billion annually to the state’s economy and most of it is spent by millions of out-of-state visitors who come between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Just in time for this summer’s tourist season, Maine is slowly reopening for business and officials are grappling to balance economics and public safety during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

There have been 3,558 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maine and 114 deaths as of July 13, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. While hospitalizations from the virus are on the rise in the state, the death rate per 100,000 people is among the lowest in the country. Gov. Janet Mills and her administration have faced increased pressure to reopen the state in ways that simultaneously keep the tourism industry in business while keeping Mainers safe during the pandemic.

Among the millions of tourists Maine will welcome this summer from out of state, some will be coming from areas that still remain hot spots for COVID-19. As Maine cautiously reopened for the tourist season, Gov. Mills has eased up on some requirements for people coming to Maine from states that have gotten a handle on controlling the virus and on testing. But regardless where visitors are coming from, all must follow requirements set forth by Maine officials aimed at controlling any spread of the virus in the state this summer. 

If you are coming into Maine this summer, here are a few things you need to know.

A 14-day quarantine or evidence of a negative COVID-19 test is no longer required from visitors from certain states.

Visitors from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Vermont are exempt from the 14-day quarantine requirement or negative COVID-19 testing alternative. Mills made the decision based on the prevalence of the virus and positivity rates in those states. However, even with the update it is strongly recommended that visitors from these states obtain a test before visiting Maine to ensure they are not carrying the virus over state lines.

The 14-day quarantine or evidence of a negative COVID-19 test is required for all other visitors

Those coming into Maine from a state not on the exemption list have two options for adhering to state guidelines regarding the virus. They can quarantine for 14 days, show proof of a negative COVID-19 taken within 72 hours of traveling to Maine or take a COVID-19 test when arriving in the state and quarantining until the test results are in.

If those visitors choose to quarantine when arriving in Maine, the quarantine period may be spent at a personal residence or a place of lodging. Visitors who are quarantining during their stay in Maine must comply with the state’s quarantine requirements and they may not visit Maine restaurants, businesses or crowded public spaces. If at a place of lodging, they may not use shared facilities or dining rooms. If an out-of-state visitor uses a regular campsite or motorhome as a second home, they may spend their quarantine there.

Mills announced that as of July 1, proof of a negative test will allow visitors to avoid the quarantine period. Adults must obtain and receive a negative COVID-19 test no later than 72-hours prior to arrival in Maine and bring the results with them. Testing for children,18 years and younger, who are travelling with adults, is not required.

Alternatively, adult visitors may also get tested upon arriving in Maine, but must remain in quarantine while awaiting the results. It will take a lab about 24 hours to run a test, but it could take several days to get the results.

Mills also announced on June 8 that residents of New Hampshire and Vermont are now exempt from quarantine and testing requirements.

“When adjusted for population, the prevalence of active cases of COVID-19 in those states is similar to Maine,” Mills said Monday. This exemption is effective immediately for travel and will be effective on June 12 for stays in lodging establishments in Maine.

For visitors who quarantine for 14 days when entering Maine, some Maine grocery stores, restaurants, book stores and other retail operations are offering contactless home delivery for those who place paid orders by phone or online.

To find out if a business will deliver in the area in which you will quarantine, you can call them directly to inquire. You can also check their websites or Facebook pages to see what they offer.

Lodging

Maine’s hotels, inns, beds and breakfast and other lodging facilities are accepting reservations. However, before any out-of-state visitor can check in, they must either complete the 14-day quarantine period or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

Before checking into a Maine lodging establishment, visitors who are not residents of Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey or Vermont must complete a Certificate of Compliance form indicating they have received a negative COVID-19 test result or that they have already completed their quarantine in Maine. Visitors may be asked  to furnish  proof of the negative test result upon request.

If spending the quarantine period in a Maine lodging facility, visitors must arrange for meals to be delivered to their room and must avoid contact with staff and guests. Use of shared public spaces, dining spaces, gyms and pools is prohibited during quarantine.

Dining out

Those who have proof of a negative COVID-19 test or who complete the quarantine period can head out to get food from a restaurant. All eateries in Maine have the option of offering outdoor seating, curbside pickup and delivery .

Restaurants, outdoor bars and tasting rooms in Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland and York counties in addition to those in Bangor, Brewer, Lewiston and Auburn are required to enforce a face covering requirement for guests whenever they are in public areas of the establishment or whenever it is impossible to maintain six-feet of social distancing between people.

Some dine-in restaurants may be using a call or text alert system to let people know when their tables are ready. Only one member of a dining party can wait inside the restaurant. At restaurants offering inside seating, customers should wear cloth face masks in areas where it is difficult to maintain social distancing of 6-feet from another person. These masks do not need to be worn while seated at a table, however. For contact tracing purposes, restaurants allowing patrons to dine inside must keep records of all their customers and complete contact information for one member of each dining party for at least 21 days.

Dining-in is not permitted yet at restaurants in York, Cumberland and Androscoggin counties where COVID-19 community transmission has been documented and remains a risk.

In response to restrictions imposed to control the spread of COVID-19, many restaurants in Maine have increased existing take-out options or started to offer take-out for the first time. Many have also simplified the online or over the phone ordering and paying ahead processes to make things simpler for diners. These restaurants let people pay ahead of time and pick up orders curbside at a pre-arranged time which limits person-to-person contact.

If the weather is nice, take-out food can be enjoyed outdoors at a park or at the beach. Or, the food can be taken back to where a visitor is staying and enjoyed.

Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are a big part of the summer season in Maine. Once out-of-state visitors have quarantined or received a negative COVID-19 test, they can go to these markets to find locally grown and processed food and drink like fresh vegetables, cheeses, meats, pastries and wines to enjoy while in Maine or to take back home as gifts.

Those who want to shop farmers markets should know that while the farmers markets are operating this summer, they will look very different than in years past. There will be no onsite dining, music and congregating is strongly discouraged. Vendors are enforcing the six-feet between people social distancing and everyone should plan to wear face masks.

Like restaurants, many farms are also offering online ordering options where customers choose their items ahead of time, pay online and simply pick up their order on market day to minimize personal contact even further.

Shopping

Some retail stores in Maine have reopened for shopping with extra safety precautions in place. Those with a negative COVID-19 test or those who have completed quarantine, are free to visit open stores, galleries, gift shops and other commercial retail shops.

However, there are strict limits on how many people will be allowed inside any one store, based on square footage. Retailers will limit the total occupancy of a store to five customers per 1,000-square-feet of shopping space.

Maine’s large retail businesses — those with 50,000 square feet or larger — in Hancock, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc, Cumberland and York counties — as well as in Bangor, Brewer, Lewiston and Auburn are enforcing a face covering requirement for their customers.

Before going out to shop, it’s a good idea to call ahead or check online if your favorite retail spot has modified hours, what it’s occupancy rate is and any other COVID-19 rules it may have in place.

Visiting parks, beaches and other outdoor spots

If Maine has one thing, it’s plenty of outdoor space in which to spread out and enjoy. Baxter State Park is open and accessible at the two main gates for vehicle access at Togue Pond and Matagamon from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. All public roads in the park are open as are all trails except Dudley Trail. The park headquarters office in Millinocket and the bunkhouses in the park are closed. 

Visitors to the park are strongly encouraged to wear face masks and maintain the 6-foot distance from other people while outside.

Acadia National Park’s Park Loop Road is open to vehicle traffic. In the park, the Jordan Pond House Gift Shop and the Cadillac Mountain Eco Store are open along with the Jordan Pond House Restaurant for takeout and indoor dining. The Island Explorer bus service has been canceled for the 2020 season.

All state parks and historical sites are open for day use, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Among these are popular inland and coastal destinations like Crescent Beach, Kettle Cove, Popham Beach, Reid, Scarborough Beach, Two Lights and Ferry Beach state parks; Forts Baldwin and Popham; and Mackworth Island.

Gates to the state parks open at 9 a.m and close at sunset. All park events and programs have been canceled for the summer and all playgrounds and many restroom facilities are closed to the public.

Visitors to Maine’s outdoor spots should pack snacks and water ahead of time to avoid making stops along the way that could increase coming into close contact with other people. For that same reason, it’s strongly encouraged to stick to easier terrain to avoid accidents and injuries that can add stress to already busy first responders and medical workers.

Even outside in Maine it’s important to adhere to COVID-19 health restrictions including social distancing of six feet between people and wearing face masks. If necessary, step aside when passing other people on trails or paths. Tempting as it may be, don’t linger or loiter at scenic spots like waterfalls, summits or viewpoints. That way more people can enjoy those spots while maintaining social distancing.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.