Federal court upholds Maine’s out-of-state quarantine rule

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s quarantine requirement for out-of-state visitors during the pandemic was upheld by a federal appeals court.

The owners of two campgrounds and several individuals sued after Gov. Janet Mills signed an executive order in April requiring most travelers to quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival in Maine.

A federal judge denied a request to block the quarantine order in May, and the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision Tuesday.

Attorney General Aaron Frey said in a statement that the requirement was sensible and that he’s gratified it was affirmed.

“This measure was necessary not only to prevent the spread of the virus, but also to protect Maine’s health care system, which is designed for a population of 1.3 million residents but which easily could have been overwhelmed in the face of a seasonal influx of many times that number,” the attorney general said.

Maine’s pandemic restrictions and rules have evolved over time. The current requirement is that most out-of-state visitors must test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arrival or quarantine for 10 days upon arrival.

In other pandemic news:

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THE NUMBERS

The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 5.81%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 7.4% on Jan. 6 to 5.81% on Jan. 20.

Public health authorities in Maine have reported more than 35,000 cases of the virus and 536 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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VACCINATION SITE

Maine’s largest health care network has reached an agreement to use a former harness racing track as a mass vaccination site.

MaineHealth said Thursday the owners of the former Scarborough Downs have donated the facility’s grandstand for use as a “high-volume COVID-19 vaccination clinic.” The clinic should be able to vaccinate at least 1,000 people per day, the health network said.

MaineHealth said the clinic will be completed and ready for operation by the end of January and it’s expected to be open for six months.

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SCHOOL SPORTS

The Maine Principals’ Association has decided the state’s color-coded school safety system for the pandemic won’t apply to school sports.

The state has been rating counties green, yellow or red based on their level of coronavirus risk. Twelve counties are green and four are yellow.

The change means means decisions about sports are left to local districts. Schools designated yellow were previously not allowed to hold school activities such as sports.

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FARM AID

Hundreds of farms and other businesses in Maine are set to receive another $18 million in federal coronavirus relief aid.

The money is going to reimburse farmers, food processors, food banks and pantries for expenses associated with the pandemic, the office of Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said. The grants are going to a total of 609 businesses, the governor’s office said.

The grants reflect the fact that many food businesses in the state “pivoted their production and distribution models to continue operations and keep employees, volunteers, and customers safe,” Maine Department of Conservation, Agriculture & Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal said.

Some companies in the state have reported losing 80% or more of their food service business during the pandemic.

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