© 2024 Red River Radio
Voice of the Community
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Justice Department Says Maine's 2-Week Quarantine Rule Discriminates Against Tourists

Motels are closed in late April in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, during measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Robert F. Bukaty
Motels are closed in late April in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, during measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Updated at 8:13 p.m. ET

The U.S. Department of Justice is siding with campground and restaurant owners in Maine who sued the state over a two-week self-quarantine policy for out-of-state visitors.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills imposed the restriction as part the state's response to the ongoing pandemic. Several other states have imposed similar measures.

In a brief filed on behalf of Bayley's Campground in Scarborough and other plaintiffs, attorneys with the Department of Justice, including the U.S. attorney for Maine, said the government is getting involved because of its "compelling interest in protecting the public and citizens' constitutional right to be free from unjustified discrimination on the basis of state residency."

In this case, the federal attorneys said Maine has likely exceeded the Constitution's limits by discriminating between Mainers and people from out of state, with respect to the ability to patronize campgrounds and recreational vehicle parks.

The government's statement noted that the order doesn't require all nonresidents to go into quarantine. "As far as public safety goes, it is unclear why out-of-state residents may enter Maine to engage in any 'legal, business, professional, environmental permitting and insurance services,' for example, but not to patronize a campground or RV park. ... If Maine wants to prevent the spread of COVID-19, one would think it would start by preventing outsiders from attending a boardroom meeting, not from pitching a tent."

In response, Mills said in a statementshe is "deeply disappointed and frankly disgusted – that the U.S Department of Justice is making a concerted effort to undermine the health of the people of Maine."

Mills pointed out that these objections "were never raised when the President and his own task force took steps to limit travel."

"Maintaining the 14-day quarantine ... has never been about anything other than protecting the health and safety of Maine people at a time when millions are expected to flock to our state from COVID-19 hot spots," Mills said. "I imagine it is for this same reason that so many other governors have enacted similar measures."

On Friday, the judge rejected a motion for a preliminary injunction against the governor's orders.

Copyright 2020 Maine Public

Deputy News Director Susan Sharon is a reporter and editor whose on-air career in public radio began as a student at the University of Montana. Early on, she also worked in commercial television doing a variety of jobs. Susan first came to Maine Public Radio as a State House reporter whose reporting focused on politics, labor and the environment. More recently she's been covering corrections, social justice and human interest stories. Her work, which has been recognized by SPJ, SEJ, PRNDI and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, has taken her all around the state — deep into the woods, to remote lakes and ponds, to farms and factories and to the Maine State Prison. Over the past two decades, she's contributed more than 100 stories to NPR.