25 June 2020
Many Americans have been staying close to home since the start of the coronavirus health crisis. Those interested in traveling are now exploring where they can go on vacation this summer. They are discovering that such a trip may require coronavirus tests and even quarantines.
States from Maine to Hawaii are trying to balance the need to contain the virus with urging out-of-state visitors to spend money at hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
Coronavirus containment measures get little support from many in the tourism industry. They fear that visitors will choose to wait things out until they can go without worrying about violating a state-ordered quarantine or searching for a testing station for the virus.
Pauline Frommer is editorial director for Frommers.com and Frommers' travel guidebooks. She says discretion is the better part of valor during a health crisis.
"You don't want to die because you went on vacation," she told The Associated Press.
Some states like Hawaii require quarantines for out-of-state visitors. Maine, Alaska and Vermont have some version of a test requirement.
In Maine, a state that calls itself "Vacationland," Governor Janet Mills provided an alternative to the 14-day quarantine. Visitors are welcome if they can show that they have been tested within 72 hours of arrival and are not carrying the virus.
Operators of hotels and restaurants say the governor's measure falls short of what is needed to bring in tourists and save their summer season.
"We don't think visitors are going to jump through hoops like that," said Steve Hewins from HospitalityMaine, the state's tourism trade group. He worries that visitors will just go somewhere else.
Hawaii Governor David Ige extended his state's required two-week quarantine for all arriving travelers. However, state officials are trying to develop a process that could let some travelers return.
Florida has recently reported an increase in coronavirus cases. The state requires a quarantine for visitors from New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Those states have had some of the highest infection rates during the early days of the health crisis. New York officials now say they are considering requiring Florida visitors to quarantine.
Travelers to Alaska who are tested upon arrival can avoid a quarantine if a test shows they do not have the virus. But visitors are told to limit their activities until they get a second test result showing no infection.
In Vermont, visitors can cut short the required two-week quarantine if they get a test after a week that shows no sign of infection.
Tim Piper is president of the Vermont Inn and Bed and Breakfast Association. He noted, "There is pent-up demand, people are wanting to come to the state."
Neighboring New Hampshire is requiring out-of-staters to prove to having quarantined at home for 14 days before staying at a hotel or other property. The state rejected the idea of requiring visitors to quarantine while they are on vacation.
The safety concerns in Maine have a reason. The state has the highest percentage of people over age 65 -- the group most at risk to the coronavirus.
Businesses like hotels in Maine say the test requirements are difficult, can be costly and are not easily available.
At the Cod Cove Inn, owner Ted Hugger wonders whether out-of-staters will pay for the tests, which can cost $150 per person. He also questioned whether testing would keep people safe since it is not required of children 18 years and under who are traveling with adults.
"It just doesn't make sense," he said.
Hewins, of HospitalityMaine, does not like the idea of turning away families who have driven hours to vacation in his state. He likes the rules in New Hampshire, which has something closer to an honor system for visitors.
Compared to some states, Maine has had fewer coronavirus infections and deaths. But Maine's governor worries that rural hospitals could have large numbers of coronavirus patients if millions of visitors arrived without observing safety measures.
"I can think of nothing more devastating than an outbreak or resurgence of this deadly untreatable virus during...tourism season," she said.
I'm Mario Ritter, Jr.
David Sharp reported this story for The Associated Press. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
quarantine –n. keeping someone apart from other so they do not pass on a disease
tourism –n. the businesses of providing hotel, restaurant or other services for people who travel for pleasure
discretion –n. being careful about what you say or do
valor –n. courage or bravery
jump through hoops –n. to do a complicated or bothersome series of things in order to reach one goal
pent-up –n. held in or kept inside and ready to burst out
devastating –n. causing damage or harm
resurgence –n. growth or increase that happens after a period of little activity