Three southern Maine communities have responded to the coronavirus pandemic by encouraging out-of-state visitors to quarantine for two weeks after they arrive in the municipalities.

South Portland enacted a 14-day quarantine regulation on Thursday, after the town council in neighboring Cape Elizabeth approved a similar order Wednesday night. Old Orchard Beach officials issued a sweeping emergency declaration on Thursday that, in part, “strongly encouraged” summer residents and others from outside Maine to self-quarantine for two weeks after they arrive.

The municipalities took action after Gov. Janet Mills said Tuesday that she “will insist” that anyone entering the state or returning to Maine self-quarantines for 14 days. She responded to concerns about an influx of non-Maine residents to the state, especially in coastal areas with many vacation or second homes. She has not issued a written order on the matter.

“The council wanted to show support for the governor’s efforts and felt the step needed to be taken now rather than wait,” Cape Elizabeth Town Manager Matt Sturgis said.

South Portland City Manager Scott Morelli issued two emergency regulations on Thursday: one requires out-of-state visitors to quarantine and the other greatly restricts short-term rentals. Both will be in effect at least through April 30.

“These restrictions provide a stronger regional response to limiting the spread of the novel coronavirus,” Morelli said. “They will be in place as long as needed and as short as possible.”

The new regulations were emailed to all short-term rental operators in the city and will be distributed to hotel and motel operators as well, Morelli said.

South Portland’s quarantine requirement applies to all visitors from outside Maine. City police officers will be responsible for enforcing the quarantine rule, and violators will be fined $100 to $5,000 per occurrence, plus the costs of prosecution.

“The expectation is that people will do the right thing,” Morelli said.

The regulation is stricter than the city’s stay-at-home order, requiring individuals to remain in quarantine for the entire the 14-day period except to seek medical attention. These individuals are not allowed to go to work, travel, use public transportation or even conduct essential activities allowed for others under the statewide state-at-home order, such as getting groceries or other necessary supplies.

If new arrivals have symptoms of, or have tested positive for COVID-19, they must remain in quarantine beyond 14 days, unless a medical professional determines they require hospitalization. This regulation applies equally to all residents and visitors to South Portland, Morelli said.

The quarantine requirement applies to anyone who is arriving in South Portland “and not merely passing through” unless they are among several groups exempted from the city’s temporary short-term rental ban.

Guests exempted from South Portland’s rental ban are Maine residents who are homeless; health care professionals who are coming to South Portland to join the virus response; and individuals who need a place to isolate away from their families because they have contracted the virus or are being quarantined because they have been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19.

Also exempted from the rental ban are guests who are public safety workers who are in South Portland to provide assistance in the area based on a request from a municipal, county or state governmental agency or department; as well as individuals and their children who are victims of domestic violence.

South Portland’s rental ban follows recent similar action in Portland and Cape Elizabeth, and Old Orchard’s emergency declaration includes a ban on short-term rentals and new occupancies of lodging establishments and campgrounds through April 30.

The South Portland ban applies to the vast majority of short-term rentals in the city, whether or not they are among the 63 properties formally registered under municipal ordinances that apply to home rentals for fewer than 30 days.

Anyone who is currently in a short-term rental must vacate the premises no later than next Friday, April 10, at noon, Morelli said.

“The length of this restriction may be extended beyond April 30, so anyone operating a short-term rental should take this into consideration when listing their property,” Morelli said.

Morelli said that the city won’t be liable for amended, canceled or terminated bookings or lost revenue arising out of these regulations. He noted that many booking websites such as Airbnb are offering full refunds for canceled reservations.

The South Portland regulations take effect at noon Friday. Morelli was able to issue the regulations under a civil state of emergency enacted by the City Council.

“My decision was based on feedback from city councilors, members of our local Board of Health, and other local officials,” Morelli said. “I appreciate their guidance.”

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