Maine closes its borders to outsiders unless one tests ‘Covid-negative’ | Added June 8
In an effort to salvage its 2020 tourist season, Maine will be requiring that tourists originating outside of Vermont and New Hampshire test negative for the “novel coronavirus.” This development was announced Monday during a press conference by Gov. Janet Mills.
If visitors do not want to be tested, they may be quarantined for 14-days within the state, though it is not clear where that would happen. One point of verification of testing will be at hotel, campground or bed and breakfast check-in. Those who have quarantined in Maine for 14 days will have the test requirement waived. Out of state quarantine does not count.
The argument is that Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire have some of the lowest “case” rates in the country and the state should not be tainted by those carrying in the disease from outside. Maine has had 99 deaths it claims are due to Covid-19.
“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 is quoted as saying in an official state press release.
The state’s requirement for medical evidence to conduct business may run into legal problems on several levels, one of which was admitted by the governor today. “We don’t want to make the hotel staff become a repository for HIPAA-protected information,” Mills said. “Someone may ask for the test result, confirming it.” In other words, as we understand it, visitors will not actually be required to present the proof at hotel check-in, only to provide a compliance certification form.
HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, a federal law that is supposed to guarantee privacy of medical status. Presumably, saying someone is not eligible for a public service due to medical status is illegal, as is demanding proof. Imagine if everyone had to provide the results of an HIV test to check in at a campground.
HIPAA’s guidelines mandate “appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization.”
“Where constitutional law is concerned, this is virgin ground,” said Stephen Bergstein, a civil rights attorney, explaining how the virus scare has upended civil rights for the time being.
“There is no way to predict their rulings because it’s going to be based on whatever judges think is important under the circumstances. There is no guidance on this. Courts don’t like to chances when they think people might get sick and die.”
He added that New York’s highest court did not accept Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s argument that it would be unsafe to hold the New York Democratic primary election, which he wanted to cancel due to the Covid situation..