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If you still have questions about the testing and quarantine mandates for out-of-state visitors, you’re not alone.
On Monday Gov. Janet Mills said out-of-state visitors could sign a pledge indicating they had a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of entering the state as an option to a 14-day quarantine beginning July 1. New Hampshire and Vermont residents are exempt starting Friday. The pledge, either signed electronically on a new app or in person at their accommodation, is conducted on an honor system, although visitors may be asked to produce the negative test result if questions arise.
Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, offered these answers to businesses on her weekly virtual update call on Thursday. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Can visitors come earlier than July 1 if they have a negative test?
We have accelerated the first day that lodging establishments in Maine can begin serving out-of-state visitors who have either met the 14-day quarantine in Maine or the state’s new testing alternative to Friday, June 26. That will open up a key weekend of the Maine tourism season leading up to the July 4 holiday.
If visitors can’t get tested in their home state, can they test at a swab-and-send site in Maine? If so, will it be free or is there a cost?
We’re encouraging visitors to test before they come. But they can definitely go to the swab-and-send here. They won’t need a doctor’s note. We have a standing order under which they would just be able to go in and get their tests. We should have information about fees early next week.
Still, visitors would need to quarantine until the test results are obtained. That can be 24 to 48 hours. They can stay in the hotel of their choice or a lodging place or campground.
Does the mandate for being tested within 72 hours of entering the state start when the test was taken or when the results were ready?
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has set the standard of 72 hours from the point of the sample taken. If it’s 74 hours, some judgment is warranted. The CDC is trying to avoid extended periods of time.
What if a visitor can’t or doesn’t want to take a test?
They can still quarantine for whatever length of time they are here. If they want to come for the weekend they can do that without testing as long as they quarantine during that time.
What is the availability of testing for out-of-state visitors?
There is a nonprofit that tracks availability of testing by area. You put in your ZIP code and it shows you the closest place that you can get a test. We are going to link that to our site. This continues to change pretty rapidly. Through July availability is really going to expand and become significantly easier.
What is the responsibility of a business to ensure a test is obtained in a timely manner?
The business just has to take the pledge from the visitor that says they had a negative test within 72 hours.
How do businesses verify negative COVID-19 status when day trippers aren’t checking into lodging and may just be coming for food, beverage, shopping or to see friends or relatives?
There’s still some enforcement work to be done and we continue to look at options.
Can people quarantine in their own home state?
We don’t recognize quarantine at home for a number of reasons. I know New Hampshire and a number of other states do, but we don’t.
How long will these testing requirements for out-of-state visitors be in place?
There isn’t an end date for our plan right now.
Is it legal to take temperature readings of foreheads at check-in?
Yes, you can do that, Our lawyers have validated that it is an acceptable activity.
Where do individual vacation homes fit into the requirements?
They are considered part of commercial lodging. Anyone who has paid for lodging falls under that.
We have a family from out-of-state that has three separate camping weekends booked in the same month. Do they need to retest and fill out the certificate each time in order to forego the 14-day quarantine?
If they’re not from New Hampshire or Vermont, yes, they would have to do something each time. But they also could quarantine at the campsite and stay within their family unit, which might be an easier option for them.
Can Maine residents who travel to states other than New Hampshire or Vermont get tested in lieu of the 14-day quarantine when they return?
Yes, they can be tested.
What if a person comes to Maine, gets tested and gets a positive result. Do they quarantine in their hotel?
It depends on the situation. If the person has a personal car and wants to go home we would encourage that. If they want to stay they would need to quarantine here. We can help them with that and to get the services they need while they are quarantined.
What if an out-of-state visitor signs the pledge that they had a test but they did not have one?
The hotel will keep the sheet they have signed. If after the fact they lied, that is a violation of the executive order and there could be a criminal response to the person.
Are businesses other than accommodations expected to check whether customers signed a pledge?
It’s primarily for people who check into a hotel, but I think each town will have its own plan. Communities are invited to send in their own plan for enforcement.
What about people who have already tested positive for COVID-19 in the past and are considered safe because they have antibodies?
I don’t have a good answer yet.
What must a customer do if they have already quarantined in Maine and are checking into a different hotel?
They can add that to the pledge sheet, for example, where people have been at one hotel and then move to a second hotel, they can just add a note that they are compliant.
What is the protocol for people with seasonal homes who may visit every weekend and then go home?
They either have to quarantine or test.
Do the hotels and inns have to store the test forms in print form or can they store them electronically?
They can store them electronically. As long as they have the signature that’s all that matters.
Watch: Who can make reservations at Maine hotels next month?