Baker Lifts Quarantine Requirement For Northeast Visitors

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: COVID-19

Many of those visiting the Lower Cape right now have come from other places in Massachusetts, industry officials say. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

Responding to the alarming resurgence of COVID-19 in other parts of the country, Gov. Charlie Baker Tuesday let stand a requirement that out-of-state visitors must self-quarantine for 14 days. But he lifted that requirement for people visiting from elsewhere in New England, from New York or New Jersey.

Local tourism officials say the change is not likely to have a great impact, since most of the visitors currently on the Lower Cape seem to have come from elsewhere in Massachusetts anyway.

Chatham Bars Inn General Manager Gary Thulander praised Baker’s decision, and his previous “very careful, very methodical” steps to reopen the economy.

“We are extremely busy right now,” he said. When the inn reopened on June 8, there were 125 guest check-ins the first day. “We’ve booked 10,000 guest room nights for the summer alone,” Thulander said. Most of those visitors came to Chatham from within driving range, he added.

“Most of our guests are really from Massachusetts,” he said.

Harwich Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cyndi Williams has a similar story. She sells beach stickers to summer visitors, and “this weekend, the majority were from Massachusetts,” she said. “What I’m seeing and hearing is, it’s going to be more of a drive-able vacation for people. And they’re staying longer.” Rather than day passes, Williams has been selling beach stickers that are valid for two weeks or for the whole summer season.

“That’s a good sign,” she said.

The order that takes effect July 1 requires all out-of-state travelers arriving to Massachusetts – including Massachusetts residents returning home – to self-quarantine for 14 days, unless they are coming from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and New Jersey. The directive replaces earlier “guidelines” that encouraged out-of-state visitors to isolate themselves for two weeks. There were a number of anecdotal reports that the guidelines were largely being ignored.

Gov. Baker’s order also instructs people not to travel to Massachusetts if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

People visiting the Cape are key to understand the safety requirements, Williams said.

“People are very cautious. I get a lot of calls – I just got a call from someone from Pennsylvania asking what the limitations were,” and what restaurants and stores were doing to keep customers safe, she aid. “My phone is crazy here with all the questions.” While the Harwich Port visitors center remains closed to the public, Williams is distributing welcome bags with literature from local businesses, and the bags are going fast, she said. The Schoolhouse Lot in Harwich port is also filled, with lots of parking spaces turning over, Williams added.

“The majority of people are wearing masks,” she said, though a few are not, or are wearing them improperly on their chins.

The need to remain safe is also key in the minds of guests at Chatham Bars Inn, which has created a “wellbeing plan” for visitors. Guests like the fact that the inn occupies 30 buildings on 25 acres near the ocean, with many units having separate entrances, Thulander said. And it’s clear that there is a demand for get-away travel, “since they’ve been sort of pent up in their homes,” he said.

Entering the July 4 holiday week, Thulander is optimistic about the remainder of the season, even if it won’t be quite as busy as past summers. But given the demand he's seen in the past three or four weeks, “it’s going to be pretty close to that, right now.”