Maine residents try to force quarantine of out-of-towners by cutting down tree, police say

A tree was cut and dragged into a roadway of a residence, apparently by neighbors believing people from out of state in the home may have the coronavirus.

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By Doha Madani

A group of Maine residents apparently tried to forcibly quarantine their neighbors by cutting down a tree and blocking a roadway out of fear they might have the coronavirus.

A man who lived on Cripple Creek Road in Vinalhaven on an island off Maine left his residence to check on disrupted cable service when he came across a downed tree in the road, according to a Facebook post Saturday from the Knox County Sheriff's Office. He told police that when he got out of his car to inspect the tree, a group of people, some with guns, gathered around him and told him he needed to be quarantined.

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"Believing the group may be there to harm him, [he] fled to his residence and told his roommates what he had found," the department said.

The three roommates called for help and then used their drone to keep an eye on the group outside until authorities arrived. Law enforcement officials found that the tree had been cut and dragged into the roadway.

Deputies discovered that a group of Vinalhaven residents believed that the roommates were supposed to be quarantined after having arrived from out of state and feared that they may have COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus.

The residents had been there for the past month, well beyond the 14-day virus incubation period, and had no symptoms associated with COVID-19, the sheriff said. It's unclear from where the Cripple Creek residents traveled to Maine.

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On Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory asking residents in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area to refrain from nonessential travel for 14 days, effective immediately. Other states have issued orders to force any travelers from the tri-state area to isolate for 14 days upon arrival.

"We are concerned that some believe that anyone from out of the state is potentially infected and needs to be quarantined," the sheriff's office said. "We want to bring to the public's attention the matter of restricting a person's movements within the state."

The sheriff's office statement reminded residents that anyone infringing on another person's free movements is violating the law. It also urged anyone who fears that someone may have contracted the coronavirus to contact authorities first.

"We want everyone to be informed about Covid-19 and the rules around it," the office said. "We also want everyone to be safe and not overreact in this time of uncertainty as it could end poorly."