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VERIFY: Can Gov. Mills legally shut down Maine borders to protect against coronavirus, COVID-19?

A petition circulating online has garnered tens of thousands of signatures urging Governor Mills to close the borders to non-residents. Our VERIFY team researched it

MAINE, USA —

A petition with more than 23,000 signatures on it calls on Governor Mills to close the Maine borders to any travelers during the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic. It says if everyone in Maine is forced to close down and stay home then the borders should also be closed to non-residents. Only truck drivers, medical and military personnel should be allowed in. 

Our VERIFY team researched the demands in the petition with a variety of sources, including the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court rulings. The results are unfounded.

A law or rule that explicitly saying a state government can or cannot shut down their borders is not directly written anywhere.

Courts have long held that the U.S. Constitution protects everyone’s right to travel, but there are some Supreme Court rulings that apply.

The case of Zemel V. Rusk in 1965, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “That freedom does not mean that areas ravaged by flood, fire or pestilence cannot be quarantined when it can be demonstrated that unlimited travel to the area would directly and materially interfere with the safety and welfare of the area or the Nation as a whole.”

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The best answer, for now, is that Governor Mills herself doesn’t think she can do this.

"I cannot simply close the state's border or pull up the Maine-New Hampshire bridges as a few people have suggested,” said Mills in a news conference Tuesday.

Mills instead that all people entering the state self-quarantine for 14 days.

If you have other questions for us, send us an email to desk@newscentermaine.com.

At NEWS CENTER Maine, we're focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

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