View profile

At America's Edges, State Officials Impose Tough Travel Restrictions

States of Crisis with Dan Vock
At America's Edges, State Officials Impose Tough Travel Restrictions
By Daniel C. Vock • Issue #4 • View online
Welcome back to States of Crisis. We are starting to hit our stride. Here are a few quick ways you can make this newsletter a success:
  • Subscribe, if you haven’t already.
  • Even better, become a full member! The more paying members we have, the more original content I can produce.
  • Pass this newsletter along to your friends or colleagues. Share it on social media. Encourage folks to subscribe or become members.
  • Take this survey
  • Share story ideas or other leads with me, or let me know what you think! As always, you can email me at
Onto the news…

At America's Edges, State Officials Impose Tough Travel Restrictions
The streets of Bar Harbor, Maine, a small island town that normally fills with tourists during summer, are virtually empty this year. Steve Hewins blames Maine’s governor.
Hewins is the president and CEO of HospitalityMaine, which represents the state’s hotel and restaurant businesses. He’s been trying in vain to convince Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, to reconsider travel conditions she has imposed on visitors to prevent the spread of covid-19.
The governor issued an executive order in early April requiring out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days when they entered the state, or else face penalties of up to a $1,000 fine or six months in jail. Mills recently relaxed those requirements. Her updated order allows residents from Vermont and New Hampshire to enter without isolating themselves, and it gives other visitors the option of showing that they had tested negative for covid-19 within three days of traveling to Maine.
“The covid-19 pandemic has loomed large over our state’s tourism industry. Many Maine people are fearful that more visitors will increase the spread of the virus while many small businesses are fearful that a lack of visitors will force them to permanently close their doors,” Mills said recently. “It is my hope that by creating layers of protection to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus this plan will protect public health, establish Maine as a safe place to visit, and allow tourists to come to Maine to support our small businesses.”
Maine is one of a handful of states that is still imposing tight restrictions on visitors, but many of those states, like Maine, are on the country’s geographic periphery.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, has ordered tight restrictions on incoming travelers. They must either show proof of a recent negative covid-19 test, take a test once they get to Alaska and remain in quarantine while they wait for results, or isolate themselves for two weeks.  
The Alaska governor only added the testing option at the beginning of June. It’s part of a broader move to gradually reopen the economy, even as the number of people diagnosed with covid-19 has increased. “We are not putting the economy ahead of health but they are intertwined,” Dunleavy told reporters.
A message from Alaska's tourism agency
A message from Alaska's tourism agency
Alaska’s state tourism agency responded to the shutdowns by encouraging the state’s residents to “show up for Alaska.” The agency, called Travel Alaska, produced an ad with several prominent Alaskans, including the governor, encouraging residents taking their vacations within the state. Meanwhile, Travel Alaska produced a separate ad for out-of-state residents with a very different message. It assured outsiders that Alaska will wait for them to visit. “We want you to dream now,” the ad says, “and travel later.”
Hawaii, one of the most tourism-dependent states in the country, also has the lowest covid-19 infection rate in the country. For now, it is asking visitors to stay away.
“We are working very hard toward re-opening out-of-state travel, but we’re not there yet. We are being very cautious,” Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, said last week, as he extended travel restrictions. “There are new virus flare-ups in key mainland markets – including California where more than 2,000 new cases were reported yesterday. Oregon, Arizona and Texas are also reporting their highest number of new daily cases.”
Ige only recently allowed travel among Hawaii’s islands to resume normally. But out-of-state visitors still have to undergo a 14-day quarantine when they arrive, a policy that is set to extend to at least the end of July. The state’s lieutenant governor has pushed a plan to institute voluntary random testing for incoming visitors, an idea that the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association has supported, too. But reopening the economy to tourists will also require new safety standards for restaurants, hotels and other tourist destinations to protect employees and visitors.
Puerto Rico has routed all incoming flights to the airport in San Juan, where National Guard troops are administering health screenings and covid-19 tests to incoming passengers. The commonwealth advises incoming passengers that they may have to undergo a two-week quarantine, even if they don’t show any symptoms of illness. As of late May, some 77,000 passengers were screened at the airport over two months, Bloomberg reported, and just 200 tested positive.
The response of these geographically isolated areas of the country, in other words, stands in stark contrast to the approach taken by governors – particularly in the South and West – who have pushed to reopen their economies even as the numbers of people infected with covid-19 in their states persists or even climbs.
In Maine, the governor recently said she understands the frustrations among people in the tourism business.
“I, too, am deeply concerned about our economy,” Mills said. “But I can think of nothing more devastating than an outbreak or resurgence of this deadly untreatable virus during the height of tourism season. Nothing would be worse for our economy and for the tourism industry, in particular. I want visitors, staff and the public to know that they are protected by every means possible.”
Hewins, the head of HospitalityMaine, thinks the new requirements are unnecessarily onerous, especially compared to the restrictions imposed by other New England states.
“The replacement has created just as much pain,” he says. “It’s the industry’s belief that people aren’t going to get tested. There’s a lot of concern that [tourists] can’t even get that test in other states.”
The order has also exacerbated regional divisions between the northern and southern parts of the states, Hewins says.
The two regions have long viewed each other warily, and politically the urban south has leaned Democratic while the more rural north has been more Republican.
Mills’ quarantine and testing policies are enforced at hotels and rental housing, so they disproportionately affect communities in the north. Meanwhile, day trippers from Massachusetts have flocked to the Portland area in the south to enjoy the restaurants (where indoor dining recently resumed) and beaches before returning home at night.
That means Bar Harbor, which is a four-and-a-half hour drive from Maine’s southern border, has been hit hard. Even worse, the cruise ships that normally bring hundreds of thousands of tourists to the island have been canceled, too.
“That’s Ground Zero for us, in terms of the depths of despair,” Hewins says. “I just saw a picture of main street in Bar Harbor from yesterday. It was a beautiful, sunny day, 75 degrees. There wasn’t a soul on it.”
But the impact will be felt far from tourist hotspots, he warns. One in six workers in the state are employed by the hospitality industry, he says. Lobstermen and farmers suffer when they can’t sell their products to local restaurants. And government revenue will dry up along with the tourist economy; hotel taxes in the state during April were 80 percent below what they had been last year.
“If we don’t get this industry restarted and at least limp our way through the rest of the season,” Hewins says, “it’s going to be a very long winter in Maine.”
More from me...
Md. Democrats Back Reconciliation Commission to Address, Heal Racism – Maryland Matters
Quote of the Week
Florida GOP goes into ‘full ostrich mode' as budget burns
Send notable quotes or stories you want to see in the newsletter to
The Great Mask Debate
Many states are suddenly struggling with the issue of whether people should be required to wear masks when out in public – and particularly in stores – to prevent the further spread of covid-19. The controversies have not just been about whether those requirements are a good idea, but also about who can order them and who will be held accountable if customers don’t wear masks. Here’s a glimpse of the debate.
San Antonio leader circumvents Texas ban on fines for not wearing masks — with Gov. Abbott’s blessing
Tucson to require masks in public as Ducey relents; Pima County may follow | Local news |
Ricketts tells local governments they won't get federal COVID-19 money if they require masks | State & Regional |
California orders statewide mask use to curb COVID spread | CalMatters
Worthwhile from around the web
Philadelphia protests quickly overwhelmed police, city leaders. Here’s how it happened
The Prison Was Built to Hold 1,500 Inmates. It Had Over 2,000 Coronavirus Cases. — ProPublica
Pa. lawmaker introduces resolution to impeach Gov. Tom Wolf -
Coronavirus in Alabama: Lowndes County Outbreak Worse Than NYC - Bloomberg
States Continue to Face Large Shortfalls Due to COVID-19 Effects | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Pandemic could erode one-third of all state revenues, new analysis finds
Racism Is a Public Health Crisis, Say Cities and Counties | The Pew Charitable Trusts
Did you enjoy this issue?
Daniel C. Vock

A pandemic. Recession. Civil unrest. State leaders are grappling with several enormous crises all at once. We explore how they're responding.

In order to unsubscribe, click here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue
© Daniel C. Vock, LLC of Washington, D.C.