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Massachusetts issues strict new rules on travelers to state

July 24, 2020 GMT
A traveler wearing a protective mask, due to the coronavirus outbreak, walks through the nearly empty JetBlue terminal at Logan Airport in Boston, Friday, May 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
A traveler wearing a protective mask, due to the coronavirus outbreak, walks through the nearly empty JetBlue terminal at Logan Airport in Boston, Friday, May 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
A traveler wearing a protective mask, due to the coronavirus outbreak, walks through the nearly empty JetBlue terminal at Logan Airport in Boston, Friday, May 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

BOSTON (AP) — Travelers to Massachusetts, including residents returning home after out-of-state trips, face $500-per-day fines if they refuse to comply with a new executive order requiring them to quarantine for 14 days to control the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday.

The order that takes effect Aug. 1 comes at the height of the summer tourist season and not long before tens of thousands of college students typically flock to the state for the start of fall classes.

There are exemptions for people coming from low-risk states, which currently include New York, New Jersey, Maine and Hawaii, and for people who can prove they have had a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours prior to arriving in Massachusetts, the Republican governor said at a news conference.

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There are also exemptions for people simply passing through the state, for people who commute across state lines for work, and for people traveling to Massachusetts for medical treatment or to comply with military orders.

Travelers and residents returning home must fill out a “Massachusetts Travel Form” that includes their contact information.

“Every traveler coming to Massachusetts, no matter where they are from, has a responsibility to keep COVID-19 out of the commonwealth,” Baker said.

Baker had previously issued guidance requiring out-of-state visitors to quarantine, but it had no penalty for violators.

The executive order is the result of an uptick in road traffic and airport traffic, including flights from hot spots Florida and California, state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said.

Airlines, passenger rail companies, bus companies, some travel agents, hotel companies and short-term rental companies have been informed of the rule and are expected to inform their customers, the governor said.

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CAPE COD CLUSTER

The town of Chatham is offering a coronavirus testing clinic for people who attended a party recently that has been linked to cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Cape Cod community.

The testing being offered Monday will also be available for anyone who has had close contact with someone who attended that party, town Director of Health and Natural Resources Robert Duncanson said Friday.

Ten cases have been linked to the July 12 party as of Friday, he said. He said 30 to 50 people attended, and most appeared to be seasonal restaurant employees.

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Contact tracing is underway.

At least two restaurants in town have closed temporarily after employees tested positive for the disease, and a third has reverted to takeout orders only, but it’s unclear if that’s because they had employees at the party, Duncanson said.

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SOLDIERS’ HOME

Baker is defending an independent report into into a cluster of nearly 80 COVID-19-related deaths at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

William Bennett, a lawyer for the veteran care facility’s former superintendent who was harshly criticized in the report and now faces a lawsuit from families of the deceased veterans, questioned some of the report’s findings at a news conference Thursday.

Baker said he has reached out to all of the families who lost a loved one at the home, and knows most of them read the report.

“Many of them believe that report to be accurate, and I am with them,” Baker said.