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Coronavirus Safety Measures Affect Businesses In Massachusetts Tourist Destination


Traveling across state lines in the U.S. is not what it used to be. An increasing number of states are restricting visitors from areas of the country where the coronavirus is surging. Some states, like Alaska and Hawaii, are trying to keep their infection rates low. Others states, mainly in the Northeast, have flattened the curve after serious outbreaks and are worried about a resurgence. One of those states is Massachusetts, which has a mandatory testing requirement going into effect tomorrow. Jennette Barnes of member station WCAI reports.

JENNETTE BARNES, BYLINE: Massachusetts will now require visitors to fill out an online form before they come here detailing their travel dates. They will also have to test negative for COVID-19 no more than three days before arrival or else quarantine for 14 days. If they don't, they could be fined $500 a day. When Deborah Wassertzug of Maryland heard her family needed to get tested, she got stressed about her vacation plans.

DEBORAH WASSERTZUG: We were really kind of freaking out about, well, which test site and, you know, how much is it going to cost?

BARNES: She and her husband wanted to visit Cape Cod in August with their two sons, ages 10 and 13. And when she talked to a friend who is a nurse at a testing site, she felt reassured it would all work out. Now she's thinking about the nearly eight-hour drive.

WASSERTZUG: Yeah, we've just been talking about the whole restroom situation with our kids, actually. Typically, we'll stop at a rest stop along the highway. And we're not really sure how comfortable we feel, and we need to figure out those sort of logistics.

BARNES: Massachusetts is concerned about out-of-state visitors like the Wassertzugs because the state wants to keep its coronavirus numbers low. Since mid-April, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has dropped 90%. Here on Cape Cod, many businesses need summer visitors and second homeowners to survive. Local hospitality workers want a functioning tourist season, but they don't want COVID-19 to get worse. Already in July, summer parties on the Cape have given rise to at least two new clusters of infection.

At a public beach in the town of Sandwich, 16-year-old Ella Alger is selling slushies from a truck, something she wasn't sure she would get to do.

ELLA ALGER: I started applying for jobs early in February and March. And then when everything started to go downhill, I thought, oh, like, what if I actually don't get a job?

BARNES: She's from Connecticut and staying at her family's beach house for the summer. Connecticut is one of eight states, mostly in the Northeast, that are exempt from the Massachusetts quarantine order. Even though she got the job, the slushy business has only picked up recently.

ALGER: We had to open up late, so that was kind of hard. And there's obviously been less business.


BARNES: On another, quieter beach in Sandwich, there's a smattering of people watching the boats pass in and out of the canal that separates Cape Cod from the mainland. Paula Deal just retired from teaching. She always looks for uncrowded places to go, but she wants this area to remain a popular vacation spot.

PAULA DEAL: I was very worried at the beginning of the pandemic that Cape Cod would become a ghost town, and I don't want that to happen. I loved the Cape. But I also do think and want people to make sure that they're still doing the right thing.

BARNES: Doing the right thing to many Cape Codders means wearing masks and social distancing. It also means requiring visitors to do what's necessary to keep the coronavirus numbers down without scaring people away. For NPR News, I'm Jennette Barnes in Sandwich, Mass.

(SOUNDBITE OF KUPLA'S "DEW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.