As vaccinations ramp up in Maine and nationwide, the Mills administration has announced changes to COVID-19 travel guidelines with an eye toward salvaging the 2021 summer tourism season. The changes mean that beginning in May most people from across the country can travel to Maine without having to first quarantine or get a COVID-19 test.

The changes, however, will directly affect Maine residents as well. Here are answers to a few questions dealing with travel, gathering limits, bars and tasting rooms and other topics. Have others? Email them to [email protected].

I’m a Maine resident. Do I still need to quarantine or be tested after traveling to other states?

Potentially. It depends on your vaccination status as well as when and to where you are traveling.

Effective Friday, fully vaccinated Maine residents (those who have received all required doses and have waited at least two weeks for the vaccine to take full effect) will no longer be required to quarantine or get a COVID test after returning to Maine from other states. Likewise, fully vaccinated residents of other states no longer need to quarantine or be tested when traveling to Maine.

The rules are different, however, if you are not fully vaccinated.

You can travel to and from the five other New England states (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island) without having to quarantine or test when you get back to Maine. But prior to May 1, non-vaccinated Maine residents will have to either quarantine and/or get tested for COVID after returning from the other 44 states.

That will no longer be true on May 1, however, because on that date Maine is expected to lift quarantine/testing restrictions on visitors from all states except – and this is a big exception – if they are flagged by Maine CDC because of high virus rates. So non-vaccinated Maine residents who travel to one of those designated high-risk states after May 1 would still have to comply with quarantine and testing requirements.

What about international travel? Have the rules changed for visiting Canada or other countries?

No, they have not because those quarantine and/or testing requirements are set by the federal government, not the states.

Current federal rules require all airline passengers flying to the United States from another country – including U.S. citizens – to have a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board the flight.

Canada only allows U.S. citizens to enter under circumstances of “essential travel” such as work, study, immediate medical care, etc.. While there have been frequent discussions about lifting that restriction, the Maine-Canada border is still effectively closed for all nonessential travel. And as Gov. Janet Mills noted on Friday, that decision is up to President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Seventeen percent of our overnight guests over the summer come from Canada,” Mills said. “That is still an inhibiting factor on our economy. But I can’t change that on my own.”

How will the vaccination requirement for out-of-state visitors be enforced prior to May 1 or from non-exempt states after that?

Ensuring compliance and enforcement of quarantine or testing requirements has been a challenge throughout the pandemic, and chances are it will continue to be. But the system used will not change.

Currently, non-vaccinated visitors to Maine from outside the other New England states are required to either get a negative test or comply with a 10-day quarantine upon arriving here. Those out-of-state visitors who end up staying at a hotel, campground or other lodging establishment are required to complete a “Certificate of Compliance” attesting to the fact that they have either tested negative, quarantined, been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.

“This compliance form must be provided to check-in at all Maine lodging, including but not limited to campgrounds, seasonal rentals, overnight camps, and other commercial lodging, such as Airbnb,” reads the frequently-asked-questions section of the state’s website for travelers during the pandemic. “Visitors may be asked to furnish proof of the negative COVID-19 test result or vaccination upon request.”

When can I finally grab a beer at my favorite bar?

You should be able to belly up to your favorite bar or brewery tasting room on March 26, or whenever they decide to open after that date.

Some bars and tasting rooms have offered indoor seated service for months because their food licenses effectively made them restaurants. Many others have been serving drinks outdoors. But for some, this will be the first time they’ve been able to operate in more than a year.

Don’t expect things to be pre-pandemic normal, however.

Bars and tasting rooms will have to operate under the same health and safety protocols as restaurants. That means at least 6 feet of separation between parties, lots of sanitation practices, masking requirements for all staff as well as for patrons when they aren’t eating or drinking, and capacity limits inside.

Starting March 26, eating and drinking establishments will be able to go to 50 percent permitted capacity or, for larger spaces, either 50 patrons or five people for every 1,000 square feet, whichever is greater. The permitted capacity limit is slated to rise to 75 percent on May 24 unless virus conditions in the state prompt the Mills administration to decide otherwise. They will have to allow for the 6-foot spacing between customers or parties, however, which could further limit capacity in smaller establishments.

For outdoor beer gardens and eating spaces, venues will be able to fill to 75 percent of permitted capacity on March 26 and then 100 percent on May 24 — but only as long as they can still maintain that 6-foot separation between parties.

The Mills administration did not provide a timeframe for when those businesses – or any others – could go back to 100 percent capacity.

“We think this will give us time to evaluate the data, evaluate how businesses are doing and how they are protecting public health,” Mills said during Friday’s news conference. “Obviously, they are still under pretty strict public health guidelines and protocols.”

What about outdoor summer concerts and festivals?

The capacity limits will increase this month for both indoor and outdoor performing arts venues.

Indoor venues will be allowed to go up to one of the following starting on March 26: 50 percent of permitted occupancy or 50 persons total, whichever is greater. The capacity allowance will increase to the greater of 75 percent or 50 people on May 24.

Outdoor venues will be able to operate at 75 percent of permitted capacity starting on March 26. They will then be able to hit 100 percent capacity on May 24 but with an important caveat: they will still need to allow enough space for patrons or parties to maintain a 6-foot separation between each other.

As for Maine’s beloved and often jam-packed summer festivals, it’s unclear what Mainers should expect.

Kate Foye, a spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, said Friday that officials will be releasing updated and streamlined COVID-19 protocols in the coming weeks that would apply to outdoor festivals. Based on recent scientific findings and progress on vaccinations, the new protocols “will not be major adjustments but tweaks to better align with how we continue to protect public health and support Maine businesses,” Foye said.

Some long-running events, such as the Yarmouth Clam Festival, have already canceled for 2021, but others, like the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, are currently still on the summer calendar.

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