Gov. Janet Mills announces that one person has tested positive for coronavirus in Maine, during a news conference at the State House, Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Augusta, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

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Travelers arriving in Maine must self-quarantine for 14 days or they can face a misdemeanor charge, according to an executive order issued by Gov. Janet Mills on Friday to deter the spread of coronavirus that also suspended the operation of lodging businesses.

Reiterating that visitors should not travel to Maine if they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms or fleeing virus hot spots, the order suspends all lodging operations, including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, and short-term rentals campgrounds, and all camping facilities effective Sunday at 12 p.m. Exceptions will be made for vulnerable populations and to support public health and safety efforts, Mills said.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

Following up on a promise made Tuesday, Mills’ order is one of her strongest mandates yet in fighting the pandemic. In effect until April 30, the executive action builds on a stay-at-home order announced by the Democratic governor on Tuesday that bars Mainers from leaving their homes in most cases except for going to essential jobs and buying necessities, including groceries. Only nine states have instituted mandatory quarantines for all travelers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“We are facing one of the greatest public health crises of the world in more than a century,” Mills said in a statement released Friday.

Mills, who earlier in the week said she cannot close the state border or “pull up the Maine-New Hampshire bridges,” also seemed to discourage Mainers from targeting visitors or other outsiders. Her order also applies to Mainers traveling back to the state.

She asked people “not to make assumptions about others, and we welcome the cooperation of other visitors and returning residents in quarantining themselves and keeping us all safe in accordance with this order.”

“Let us treat all people in Maine with compassion and kindness. That is how we will get through this,” she added.

Individuals violating the order may be charged with a class E crime that carries up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Lodging, park, or campground operators who violate the order could be seen as as violating their licenses, permits or other authorizations to operate and be fined or closed accordingly, Mills said.

Exactly what procedures or guidelines police would follow in arresting people for violating the order was not immediately clear. Mills’ spokesperson referred comment on that to the Maine Department of Public Safety on Friday night.

Vulnerable populations – such as for children in emergency placements, persons at risk of domestic violence, and the homeless ― will still be granted shelter. Accommodations for health care workers or other workers deemed necessary to support public health, public safety, or critical infrastructure as defined in Mills’ March 24 executive order are also exempt.

The order will be posted at all major points of entry into the state.

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