Maine’s Democratic governor on Monday blasted state Republicans for proposing a loosening of travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, calling the idea a “Donald Trump-style assault” on public health measures that have protected Mainers.
Gov. Janet Mills’ statement came in response to a proposal from Maine Republican lawmakers to add Massachusetts and Rhode Island to the list of states exempt from a requirement that visitors to Maine quarantine for 14 days or show proof of a negative test 72 hours before coming into the state, the Portland Press Herald reported.
“For the life of me, I cannot understand why Republicans care more about Massachusetts money than the life of a Maine person,” Mills said in a strongly worded statement posted to the official state website Monday.
“What the Republicans unveiled today is not a set of recommendations to salvage our tourism industry,” Mills said. “It is a Donald Trump-style assault on the very public health measures that have successfully protected Maine people. It amounts to a Republican invitation for a resurgence of the virus, which not only would sicken more people but would damage our economy for years to come. If Republicans want to see how damaging COVID-19 can be, they need only look to states like Florida, Texas, or Arizona who have had to slam the door shut on their economies again.”
Maine was reporting 421 active coronavirus cases, 3,292 recoveries and 119 deaths as of Monday afternoon. The states currently exempt from Maine’s quarantine requirement for travelers are Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont, according to maine.gov, the official state site.
Maine Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow defended the GOP proposal in a separate statement.
“Without a chance at salvaging part of the tourism season, businesses and livelihoods are being destroyed,” Dow said. “This plan responsibly allows residents from throughout New England into Maine without restrictions, which is in line with what every other state in New England is already doing. All of the data we are seeing tells us that this is a move that can be done safely, and the tourism industry will have a fighting chance to finish out the season on an upswing.”
Dow’s words were echoed in the same statement by Maine House Republican Leader Kathleen Dillingham.
" Maine businesses have proven that they can operate in a safe and responsible manner during a pandemic,” Dillingham said. “We have not seen dramatic changes in our COVID case rate by opening to other states. Yet Massachusetts - a state with data similar to our own - must continue to quarantine while New York, the state with the second highest infection rate in the country, is exempted. It is time to let the hard working people in the tourism industry open their doors a little wider, afford our neighbors in Massachusetts a chance to come to Maine, and give our tourism sector the opportunity to salvage the end of summer.”
Mills said Monday that she’s aware of the fiscal challenges presented by the health crisis.
“I, too, am deeply concerned about the economic ramifications of this pandemic and am worried about small business owners across Maine,” she said. “Economists, public health experts, and many business owners have told me that the best thing we can do for our economic health is to ensure that we protect public health. My Administration will continue to strike that balance.”
Mills also extended an invitation to her Republican colleagues.
“I invite Republicans to join us in embracing science and marketing Maine as a welcoming and safe place for people to visit, live, and work,” Mills said. “Further, if Republicans were interested in stabilizing the economy and protecting public health, then they should join me in calling on Congress and the President to pass another round of economic support - one geared towards helping Maine’s tourism and hospitality industries - rather than urging us to sacrifice the public health measures that have kept Mainers safe thus far.”
Mill’s office said Maine’s reporting a 7-day positive test rate of just under 1 percent.
Her office also said Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Hawaii have “followed Maine’s lead in adopting a 72-hour negative COVID-19 test as an alternative to quarantine, while a significant number of states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, have instituted and expanded their own mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement for certain travelers.”
Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com.