Anyone arriving in Maine is being ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days, and hotels and other lodging operations have been forced to shut down to curtail visitors from outside the state.

Gov. Janet Mills issued an executive order Friday mandating that anyone who comes to Maine, regardless of where they live, must self-quarantine for 14 days to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus infection. Anyone found in violation can be charged with a Class E crime and subject to a penalty of up to six months in jail and $1,000 fine, though Mills said she hoped compliance would be voluntary.

The order also mandates the suspension of all lodging operations, including hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, inns and short-term rentals, as well as RV parks and campgrounds. Lodging operators who violate the order will be “subject to appropriate penalties,” according to the news release announcing the order.

The order for travelers to self-quarantine comes amid flaring tensions caused by people from other states coming to Maine to wait out the health crisis. On March 27, several people cut down a tree and blocked the road to a home on Vinalhaven, to force visitors from another state to self-quarantine. Maine State Police issued a statement Wednesday warning that it’s unacceptable to confront people from other states over concerns about COVID-19.

In a release announcing the order, Mills said its aim is to prevent the state’s health care system from “being overwhelmed.” The order is effective immediately and extends until at least April 30, though the lodging shutdown becomes effective Sunday at noon.

“We must all do our part,” Mills said in the release. “These actions will protect the health and safety of everyone.”

Maine law enforcement agencies are ready to enforce the executive order, but expect that out-of-staters will voluntarily comply, the way Mainers have been complying with Mills’ stay-at-home order, said Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. But if there are reports of “blatant” violations, law enforcement will investigate, McCausland said.

The executive order also instructs visitors not to travel to Maine if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and not to come to Maine if they are traveling from cities or areas that have been identified as infection hot spots.

Mills directed the Maine Department of Transportation, the Maine Turnpike Authority and and other state agencies to post the self-quarantine order at all major points of entry into the state. Mills’ order exempts anyone providing essential services.

Maine has more than 1,400 businesses with lodging licenses, said Greg Dugal, director of government affairs for HospitalityMaine, a statewide restaurant and lodging industry group. But some of those are seasonal and not open yet, while those that have stayed open are seeing occupancy rates “in the single digits,” he said.

“As shocked as I am, I certainly understand why this is being done,” Dugal said of the order. “We all need to stand together on this.”

The order exempts lodging for people in certain situations, including children in need of emergency placements, people at risk of domestic violence, homeless people and health care or other necessary workers.

Mills’ executive order came after three southern Maine communities enacted orders this week asking out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine. 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.

South Portland, Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Old Orchard Beach had also enacted bans on lodging or short-term rentals.

Mills had said on Tuesday, when she announced a stay-at-home order for state residents, that she planned to “insist” that out-of-state residents self-quarantine for 14 days. She alluded during her remarks then to the tension created by people from other states – including some with more COVID-19 cases than Maine – coming here in the midst of the crisis.

“While I cannot simply close the state’s border or pull up the Maine-New Hampshire bridge, as a few people have suggested, I will insist that persons entering our state or returning to Maine from somewhere else that they self-quarantine for 14 days,” Mills said. “For those people who come to Maine, however, my message is clear: you cannot escape the virus by coming here.

“And while you are here, you are obviously subject to the laws, protocols and orders of the state of Maine. Our health facilities may soon be overcrowded or overwhelmed. If you get sick or if you are sick, treatment may be scarce or even unavailable to you.”

But Mills also made a plea Friday for Mainers to cooperate with people coming from other states to help in the current health crisis.

“Maine is a welcoming state, and we welcome the many service members and medical professionals and others who are coming here to help us,” Mills said in the news release. “I ask Maine people not to make assumptions about others, and we welcome the cooperation of other visitors and returning residents in quarantining themselves and keeping us all safe in accordance with this order.”

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