In this May 18, 2020, file photo, Gaelen and Tom Bayley of Bayley's Camping Resort in Scarborough stand in front of the empty sites at their normally busy business. The Bayleys sued Gov. Janet Mills over her imposition of a 14-day quarantine for people coming to Maine from out of state. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld Gov. Janet Mills’ rule issued early in the pandemic that requires out-of-staters visiting Maine to quarantine for two weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

As the summer tourist season was about to begin in May, two campgrounds and two restaurants in southern Maine challenged the quarantine rule in U.S. District Court in Portland. The owners of Bayley’s Camping Resort, the Little River Bar & Grille and the Seaside Square Cafe, all in Scarborough, and the Little Ossipee Campground in Waterboro claimed the quarantine rule was hurting their businesses and sought a preliminary injunction to lift the governor’s order.

U.S. District Judge Lance Walker, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled on May 29 that the plaintiffs had not yet shown that they would prevail in the long run, one of the standards for granting the injunction.

A few hours before Walker issued his decision, the U.S. Department of Justice, under Trump, weighed in on the business owners’ side, arguing that Maine could use less restrictive measures to protect the public from the coronavirus. Federal attorneys suggested requiring people from virus “hotspots,” such as New York City, rather than all out-of-staters, to quarantine.

The business owners appealed Walker’s decision three days later.

But on Tuesday, a three-judge panel in Boston agreed with Walker. Judges Jeffrey Howard of New Hampshire, Bruce Selya of Rhode Island and David Barron of Massachustts said Mills’ rule did not violate people’s constitutional right to travel freely within the U.S. and was reasonable given that it was made when tests for the virus were not readily available.

It was the second time the appellate court has ruled in favor of Mills’ measures to curtail the coronavirus’ spread. Last month, a three-judge panel rejected claims by Calvary Chapel, an independent evangelical church on Route 15 in Orrington, that the 10-person limit Mills placed on gatherings early in the pandemic violated the U.S. Constitution’s freedom of religion clause.

Indoor gatherings, including worship services, currently are limited to 50 people, provided that those in attendance wear masks and socially distance.

Just as she revised the limits on indoor gatherings, Mills later updated the quarantine rule to allow people who had tested negative for the virus within 72 hours of coming to Maine to visit without quarantining, and she allowed people living in states with low infection rates into the state with doing either.

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey, whose office defended Mills, said that he and his staff were gratified by the ruling.

“At a time when little was known about the COVID-19 virus except that it was deadly and easily spread by asymptomatic individuals, the governor sensibly required that most people entering Maine self-quarantine for 14 days, he said Tuesday. “This measure was necessary not only to prevent the spread of the virus, but also to protect Maine’s health care system, which is designed for a population of 1.3 million residents but which easily could have been overwhelmed in the face of a seasonal influx of many times that number.”

One plaintiff’s attorney, Tyler Smith of Kennebunk, said the case might go forward but the plaintiffs are evaluating their options.

“We are proud of the courage that Bayley’s Campground showed by challenging the 14-day quarantine mandate,” Smith said. “The District Court’s decision described the case as a civil rights action that has potential, and the governor relaxed the 14-day quarantine on the heels of that observation.”

Walker is expected to hear arguments on the merits of the case this spring.