REGION — State mandated restrictions eased on bars and out-of-state travelers on Friday, June 12, while the Maine CDC reported 36 new coronavrius cases last Sunday. Franklin County counts remain the same with the towns of New Vineyard, Rangeley and Temple still reporting zero COVID-19 cases.

Bars were permitted to serve customers in outdoor seating areas on the same day that residents from New Hampshire and Vermont were declared exempt from Maine’s 14-day quarantine requirement. The reasoning behind this exemption is that the states have reported similarly low coronavirus cases to Maine. With six towns in Franklin County: Wilton, Jay, Weld, Kingfield, New Sharon and Strong reporting less than five cases, residents are expressing a cautious welcome to out-of-state tourists.

“I just think that if they [tourists] do the things that they’re suppose to do—masks when you go into a store, stay six feet apart when you can—I think it will be fine,” said Wilton resident Sonny Dunham while he sipped on a red ale in Ambition Brewery’s new beer garden. 

Sonny Dunham, left and Kyle Ellis enjoy Ambition Brewery’s first day of outdoor service on Friday, June 12. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal

Ambition Brewery co-owner Jeff Chaisson was ecstatic to learn that he could open for service last weekend and scrambled to set-up an outdoor seating area.

“This is kind of nice, this is a lot of extra space,” Chaisson said while chatting up some customers he hadn’t seen in months. “We’re not really ready for it, our staffing isn’t ready so this is a good test. We’ve got three weeks of doing outdoor patio before we have to reopen. This gives us a little time to staff up.”

Chaisson thinks out-of-state customers will be few and far between since most camps in Wilton are now occupied by year-round residents. His customer base is primarily from the Wilton area and consists of people that he knows well from the community.

Even customers coming from Farmington, the town with the highest number of cases in the county, does not bother Chaisson since reported cases are still low. 14 of Farmington’s reported 16 coronavirus cases have originated from the Edgewood Rehabilitation and Living Center.

Just down the street from the brewery, co-owner of The Wilson Lake Inn Tom Whalen is eager to see out-of-state tourists come to Wilton. His business has been severely impacted by the restrictions and requirements that Gov. Janet Mills has placed on travelers. 

Rangeley Inn owner Travis Ferland, who relies heavily on out-of-state summer bus groups, has also experienced a dramatic drop in business. However, Gov. Mill’s latest easement did cause a small rise in reservations.

“We had several folks staying with us this past weekend from New Hampshire and Vermont thanks to the easing of that restriction,” Ferland said in a phone interview. “And we’ve had a lot of people within Maine staying with us as well.”

Beginning June 26, people coming from states other than New Hampshire or Vermont will be required to quarantine for 14 days before checking-in to lodging establishments, campgrounds and seasonal rentals. As an alternative, they can show proof of a negative COVID-19 test that was conducted no more than 72 hours prior to their arrival in Maine. 

Vermont has listed Franklin County, Maine as an out-of-state travel option that does not require its residents to undergo a quarantine period upon their return. This is due to Franklin County’s consistently low number of reported coronavirus cases. 

Maine Center for Disease Control and Preventions’ (CDC) reported coronavirus cases within Franklin County are listed below. Some towns are grouped together by zip code, and the specific number of cases are not released if an area has five or less cases as part of Maine CDC’s privacy policy. 

Farmington (includes Industry, Farmington Falls and West Farmington):  16 cases

Phillips (includes Avon):  6 cases

Wilton (includes Dryden, East Dixfield and East Wilton):  1-5 cases

Jay (includes North Jay):  1-5 cases

Weld (includes Carthage):  1-5 cases

Kingfield (includes Carrabassett Valley):  1-5 cases

New Sharon (includes Chesterville):  1-5 cases

Strong:  1-5 cases

New Vineyard:  0 cases

Rangeley (includes Coplin Plantation, Dallas Plantation, Sandy River Plantation and Oquossoc):  0 cases

Temple:  0 cases

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