ORONO – A group in Maine is tracking who is traveling up Interstate 95 into the northern part of the state in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Members of Down East Emergency Medicine Institute are counting the license plates of folks driving north on I-95 past the Kelly Road every day at around 4:45 p.m.
“We’re seeing large increases in the populations of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and one particular day before New York was locked down, we saw a large surge of people who came out of New York,” DEEMI Executive Director Richard Bowie said Wednesday. “This is concerning to us because of the infected folk that are coming from New York City that have been infected that are then traveling up here to find someplace of respite up in the woods.”
He added, “We’re seeing, you know, RVs, and campers and people’s cars loaded with camping gear. It’s very early in the year for that to be happening.”
New York is a hot spot for coronavirus with nearly 16,000 confirmed cases and 192 deaths as of Wednesday morning. Massachusetts has nearly 1,200 cases and 25 deaths as of Tuesday.
Governors in both states have issued stay-at-home advisories in response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The New York Times is reporting residents of the city of 8.6 million are fleeing.
“Massachusetts cars coming to Maine at 32 cars per hour, loaded with people,” Bowie said. “That could be as many as 100 people an hour, all day long. That’s 2,000 people a day from Massachusetts alone that are entering Maine.”
Bowie said the DEEMI sample is just one unofficial source of data and doesn’t include all the people entering the state.
“We should see surges in both Massachusetts and New York tags coming into Maine because once they lock down New York, which they’ve partially done now … I bet you’ll see, just like they saw in Italy, people will be fleeing and if that happens we’ll see a massive number of people pushing into Maine,” he said.