Massachusetts visitor restrictions debated 

BAR HARBOR — Massachusetts residents  historically make up a large fraction of out-of-state visitors here. 

Worried that businesses will drop off precipitously in September and October with no cruise ship visitation, business leaders recently wrote to Governor Janet Mills to lift the requirement that visitors from Massachusetts quarantine or get a COVID-19 test. 

The Town Council rejected a request from the Chamber of Commerce to send a similar letter in support of that request. Councilors said they understand the business community’s concerns, but that “it’s hard to argue with (the) success” of the state’s management of the pandemic to date. 

“The business community is running out of time to recover the many weeks of lost revenue from the spring and early summer,” Chamber of Commerce Director Alf Anderson wrote to the Governor. “By the time the leaves have all fallen, the chance to make 2020 a success (or break even) will be behind us. The next six to eight weeks are crucial.” 

Of the town parking fees collected through the ParkMobile app, the only ones for which the state license plate data is available, Massachusetts residents made up 17 percent of transactions in August of this year. Town Manager Cornell Knight said Massachusetts was the fourth most common state this year, after New Jersey, New York and Maine. Last year, Massachusetts was in the number one spot. 

“Our principle with looking at other states has always been, we will look to admit other states without the quarantine or test requirement when those states have epidemiological profiles that are as good, if not better, than that in Maine, Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah said on the Maine Calling radio show on Tuesday. 

To make that determination, he said, the agency considers not just the positivity rate but also the number of new cases adjusted for population and the “complexion of the outbreak,” including whether outbreaks are occurring among demographic groups who are “likely to be traveling.” 

“We of course welcome them,” he said. “But they’ve got to get a test before they come, or they’ve got to quarantine.” 

Chamber leaders are also worried that “the exclusion of Massachusetts residence this year will do lasting damage to visitation rates.” An opinion piece appeared in the Boston Globe in early July titled, “We used to be friends, Maine.” Anderson said the chamber’s staff sees messages and comments every day on its social media accounts from Massachusetts residents who are frustrated by the rules. 

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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