This week, Maine Governor Janet Mills becomes the first person to earn the prestigious Ass of the Week designation, twice! Mills was first awarded the Ass of Week for the devastating rules she pushed on Maine’s restaurants.
Mills earned her second Ass of the Week for her response to GOP state legislators who wanted to allow residents of fellow New England states Massachusetts and Rhode Island to visit Maine without quarantining for 14 days.
The Republicans’ effort is a response to Mills’ earlier strangulation of the state’s tourism industry. Something should be done to salvage the livelihood of Maine’s tourism workers.
Despite a science-backed proposal on the part of Maine Republicans, Mills slammed the plan. Caitlin Andrews reports for the Bangor Daily News from Augusta:
Maine Gov. Janet Mills fired back at a Republican plan on Monday to allow Massachusetts and Rhode Island residents to travel here freely while relaxing other restrictions, saying they “care more about Massachusetts money than the life of a Maine person.”
The move was minority Republicans’ most specific challenge to Mills and her fellow Democrats on the tourism restrictions that have come out of Maine’s response to the coronavirus, though it is uncertain whether the Legislature will return in 2020 after Republicans blocked a Democratic bid to reconvene over a squabble about the scope of the session.
Republicans’ proposal, unveiled Monday, would allow travelers from states with weekly positivity rates of 5 percent or less to come to Maine without quarantining or being tested. The proposal also calls for increasing the number of people allowed at gatherings from 50 to 150 inside or outside as long as distancing can be enforced. It still requires masks to be worn in public.
Now, only travelers from New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York can travel to Maine without quarantine or a negative test. Others must meet a 72-hour testing requirement that Republicans want to repeal, citing struggles with testing accessibility.
Functionally, the plan would allow Massachusetts and Rhode Island to travel to Maine freely. The former had an average weekly positive test rate of 2.6 percent last week, while the latter had a 4 percent rate, according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Another 19 states are under the 5 percent mark.
Leading Republicans argued getting visitors from neighboring states is key to salvaging Maine’s tourism season, a main driver of an economy particularly hard-hit during the pandemic due to restrictions put in place by Mills as a way to reduce the virus’ spread. In 2019, 21 percent of overnight visitors to Maine from core tourism advertising markets were from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, according to state data.
Mills is cutting Mainers off from the tourism lifeline they need to feed their families, despite a solid plan that could help them get by. That’s what makes Mills the Ass of the Week.