Maine has added Massachusetts to the list of states whose residents are exempt from COVID-19 travel restrictions requiring out-of-state visitors to quarantine for two weeks upon their arrival in the state or get a negative test for the disease shortly before they arrive.
Gov. Janet Mills announced the decision Wednesday afternoon, saying it would take effect immediately. The other states exempt from those rules have been New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Vermont.
The administration made the decision after the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention determined that the prevalence of the virus and portion of COVID-19 tests coming back positive in Massachusetts had come to resemble the rates in those other states.
While Massachusetts was one of the hardest-hit states early on in the coronavirus pandemic, the percent of its virus tests coming back positive — a key indicator of how widely the virus is spreading and whether a state is testing enough of its population — has been on a steady decline throughout the summer. As of Tuesday, Massachusetts had an average positivity rate of 0.6 percent over the past seven days, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, which matches Maine’s.
“Recent data show that the transmission risk in Massachusetts is similar to that in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey,” said Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. However, Shah advised that people coming here from those exempt states should still “take advantage of readily available testing options as the best way to ensure the safety of Maine residents and visitors.”
The exemption also applies to Mainers returning from out-of-state travel to Massachusetts for reasons such as medical appointments.
The fact that Massachusetts was not exempt from Maine’s travel restrictions has been a sore spot for the hospitality industry, given that its residents normally provide a large chunk of Maine tourism revenue each year but may have been deterred by the restrictions this year.
Heather Johnson, Maine’s commissioner of economic development, said in a news release that she hopes Massachusetts residents will contribute to “a strong tourism season as well as a robust ski season” this fall and winter.