Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced Friday that there will be notifications on the Maine Turnpike near the New Hampshire border telling visitors from out-of-state that they must self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in Maine if they are coming from places designated as COVID-19 hotspots. The governor says the move comes amid concerns that people will attempt to flee other states and worsen the outbreak here while also overwhelming the state's health care system.
Maine continues to deal with a surge in COVID-19 cases, but it still trails many other states. And with the weather slowly warming, Gov. Mills is worried that Maine's tourist season will begin earlier than usual — and for the wrong reason.
"We're very much concerned with people feeling as if they can flee the virus by coming to Maine or other states where the population is less dense, or where we have not been designated a hotspot by (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), or the president, or the vice president," she says. "That would be a false motivation to come to any state."
Mills has already been forced to temporarily close many of the state parks and beaches because large crowds have gathered there in recent days, including 3,000 people at Popham Beach State Park earlier this week.
The Maine Turnpike Authority posted electronic messages announcing the closures Thursday, but it will soon be adding a message telling visitors that they must self-isolate for 14 days if they come from COVID-19 hotspots.
Turnpike Authority Director Peter Mills, the governor's brother, says it is not yet clear if Maine is experiencing an uptick in out-of-state visitors. But he did say E-Z Pass data show an increase in vehicles towing trailers.
Other states have also imposed self-isolation requirements, including Florida, which is targeting visitors from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Updated 3:36 p.m. March 27, 2020