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Maine explains travel restrictions against Mass. residents

A sign on I-95 in York flashed a message about out of state visitors quarantining for 14 days as a car with a New York license plate headed north.
A sign on I-95 in York flashed a message about out of state visitors quarantining for 14 days as a car with a New York license plate headed north.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Analysis of public health data led Maine to keep strict restrictions on travelers from Massachusetts but not several other states including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Maine Governor Janet Mills’s administration said Thursday, answering a question that appeared to stump Governor Charlie Baker earlier in the day.

During a press briefing Thursday to announce that, beginning next week, the state would move into Phase 3 of the administration’s tiered approach to reopening the economy, a reporter asked Baker why Maine had left Massachusetts residents off its list of people who don’t have to quarantine for 14 days when coming for a visit.

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Under Mills’s “Keep Maine Healthy Plan,” out-of-state visitors from New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are not subject to the 14-day quarantine requirement, leaving Massachusetts — and other areas — hanging in the balance.

There is one alternative: A Massachusetts resident hoping to spend some summer days in Maine can show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, if it was conducted no longer than 72 hours beforehand. But the quick turnaround on testing has proved cumbersome for some hopeful vacationers.

“I don’t know the answer to that question,” Baker said. “But I’m going to call the governor of Maine today and I’m going to ask her, and see what she says.”

Baker said he was surprised to hear that was the case, given the state’s positive test rates recently.

“We’ll reach out to them” Baker added.

The Globe did, too.

Jackie Farwell, a spokeswoman for Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, said the basic premise of Maine’s approach is to identify states where residents are generally as safe as those in Maine.

“The underlying epidemiological rationale is that if the average resident is generally as safe as a Maine resident, then by coming to Maine they do not bring an increased risk of COVID-19,” Farwell said in a statement. “In its evaluation, the Administration takes into consideration several data measurements and relies on the totality of evidence, rather than any single metric.”

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Farwell said Maine wants to welcome Massachusetts residents — which is why the state offers the 72-hour testing alternative.

“We urge Massachusetts to make sure that testing is widely available,” she said.

Farwell said Mills is confident in the assessments done by her public health team.

But if the Baker administration wants to further discuss these data, she said, Mills “has no objection to their public health officials talking to ours.”

It was not immediately clear whether the Baker administration had asked its people to call Maine’s people.



Matt Stout of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.