COVID-19: The Latest Plans for Reopening Maine’s Economy

Testing capacity to triple, expedited reopening for rural Maine, and quarantine updates

Last week, Maine Governor Janet Mills announced a partnership with IDEXX Laboratories to purchase enough COVID-19 test kits to more than triple Maine’s testing capacity. This announcement allows Maine to fulfill one of the four guiding principles in the governor’s Restarting Maine's Economy plan. As a result, Governor Mills introduced a follow-up to that plan, enabling a more expedited reopening process in rural Maine. This plan will allow certain additional businesses there to reopen over the next two weeks. Details of the partnership with IDEXX and the governor’s rural reopening plan are highlighted below.

Meanwhile, as the reopening starts to occur gradually around the state, many individuals and businesses have raised questions about the governor’s 14-day quarantine requirement for entrants into the state – both out-of-state residents and Maine residents returning from travel. To help our clients understand this quarantine restriction, we’ve provided Maine CDC’s latest guidance below.

Parternship With IDEXX Laboratories

On Thursday, May 7, 2020, IDEXX Laboratories announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted its subsidiary, OPTI Medical Systems, Inc. an Emergency Use Authorization for its laboratory test kit for the detection of COVID-19. That same day, Governor Mills announced that her administration reached an agreement with IDEXX to purchase enough test kits to more than triple Maine’s current testing capacity. IDEXX is also donating an instrument to assist Maine CDC process the tests with the anticipated increased testing volume. 

The increase in testing will give health care providers the ability to seek testing for anyone they suspect of having COVID-19, which will allow Maine CDC to eliminate its testing prioritization system – a major step in long-term management of the coronavirus.

Plan to Reopen Rural Maine

The expanded testing afforded Governor Mills the opportunity to announce some modifications to her Restarting Maine’s Economy plan by allowing certain rural businesses to open ahead of schedule. All other aspects of the Restarting Maine’s Economy plan are still in effect.

Under the modified rural plan, retail stores and restaurants will be permitted to open in counties where community transmission is not present. These counties include Aroostook, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Somerset, Waldo, and Washington.

On Monday, May 11, 2020, retail stores in these rural counties are permitted to open to in-store service. Fitness and exercise gyms may also open on May 11 for outdoor classes of 10 or fewer, as well as one-on-one personal training inside fitness centers.

On Monday, May 18, 2020, restaurants in these rural counties will be allowed to open for some dine-in service. Remote campsites and sporting camps that provide access to wilderness activities such as canoeing, hiking, hunting or fishing, are also permitted to open on May 18 to Maine residents or those who have completed the 14-day quarantine.

Any rural retail store or restaurant that chooses to open must follow strict health and safety guidance, which the administration released in the form of COVID-19 Prevention Checklists. For retail stores, those measures include restricting the number of customers in a store at one time, enhanced cleaning practices, and touch-free transactions whenever possible. For restaurants, additional health and safety measures include physically distancing customers, ensuring employees follow enhanced hygiene and sanitation practices, and controlling customer flow through reservations whenever possible.

Retail stores and restaurants in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Penobscot, and York counties must still abide by the governor’s Restarting Maine’s Economy plan. Stage 2 of the plan, which begins June 1, 2020, will allow for broader in-store shopping at all retail businesses across the state and modified dine-in service for all restaurants across the state, provided that each store and restaurant implements appropriate safety precautions.

Clarification On the 14-Day Quarantine Requirement For Entrants Into Maine

On Friday, May 8, 2020, Maine CDC updated its list of 2019 Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions. Here are a few of the more relevant excerpts with regard to the 14-day quarantine requirement for entrants into Maine:

  • All out-of-state travelers coming into Maine, as well as Maine residents returning to Maine, must complete a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
  • If someone from out-of-state is not staying in Maine for the full 14 days, they still need to follow the quarantine order while in the state.
  • There is no order to quarantine for Maine residents who make short trips back and forth across the border for work.
  • Individuals coming to Maine under self-quarantine should take the following precautions:
    • Stay at home for 14 days (or during the duration of any time spent in Maine).
    • Monitor for fever (take temperature two times per day), cough, or trouble breathing.
    • Practice social distancing. Stay home (do not go to work or school), do not take public transportation or ride-shares, avoid crowded places, keep distance from others (about 6 feet).
    • No visits to public places, including grocery stores, except to seek emergency medical care. Plan to bring food for 14 days with you or arrange to have it delivered.

For questions about the reopening plans in Maine, please contact firm partner Ann Robinson.