OLD ORCHARD BEACH – Rep, Lori Gramlich, D-Old Orchard Beach, on Thursday, May 14  asked Gov. Janet Mills to replace the 14-day quarantine mandate for all out-of-state travelers with other measuresLater Thursday, Heather Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development indicated that might be in the offing.

“I am calling on Gov. Mills to eliminate the 14-day quarantine period for individuals entering Maine and replace it with increased public health protocols,” said Gramlich. “For communities like Old Orchard Beach, the mandate is not just a strain on our economy, it is a devastating blow. The Administration has said publicly that they recognize the burden a 14-day quarantine places on tourist-driven communities, and that they are seeking an alternative. Finding that alternative needs to be an immediate priority.” 

Johnson said DECD would continue to work with the tourism industry.

“Ultimately, we want to adjust the 14-day quarantine in a way that protects the health of Maine people and the health of Maine businesses,” Johnson said in a statement.

Old Orchard Beach is heavily dependent on the tourist trade, and some lodging owners say the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors means they just won’t come.

“Nobody stays for 14 days, so basically it’s a prohibition” for those outside Maine, said Fred Kennedy, who owns Alouette Beach Resort, Beach Walk Ocean Front Inn and Neptune Beach Hotel and Suites, in a prior interview. Kennedy said guests typically stay four or five nights.

Joel Ranger, who purchased White Cap Village in 2017, said in an interview in earl Mach that since March 1, he’d lost 40 percent of his reservations.

Mills’ administration has adopted a phased approach to reopening Maine. 

In 12 of Maine’s 16 counties where there has been no community spread of COVID-19 retail stores opened May 11, and were to open dine-in restaurants on May 18.

Dine-in restaurants and retail stores in York, Cumberland, Penobscot and Androscoggin counties are tentatively allowed to open on June 1, which is Stage 2 of the re-opening plan; lodging and campgrounds can open then too, for Maine residents and those from out-of-state who have met a 14-day quarantine; and gatherings of 50 people or fewer would be allowed. The next phase, which begins in July and August, retains the 14-day quarantine for those from outside Maine, and allows bars, charter boats and boat excursions to open. Stage 4, with a date to be determined, contemplates lifting restrictions and allowing businesses to open, with safety precautions.

On Thursday, May 14 Mills announced Maine lodging providers can begin accepting future reservations for stays with an arrival date of June 1 and beyond for Maine residents and for non-residents who comply with the state’s 14-day quarantine requirement, but establishments must be prepared to cancel and fully refund reservations if they cannot be reopened under the second stage as tentatively planned.

Gramlich said businesses are suffering.

“Businesses across all sectors have been showing incredible ingenuity in instituting public health safety measures,” said Gramlich. “Having worked in the public health sector myself, I understand the importance of continuing to take sound public health actions. If we increase those public health protocols further and eliminate the 14-day quarantine, we can keep our communities safe while keeping our economy afloat.”

This story has been updated.

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