Earlier this summer, Merry White arrived for her vacation in rural Maine with a negative COVID-19 test in hand, as required by state guidelines for visitors from Massachusetts. But following the rules didn’t seem to be enough to quell suspicion, or worse, among locals.
“We found that the locals didn’t trust visitors,” said White, a professor at Boston University. “And the visitors didn’t trust the locals. The locals didn’t wear masks because they felt ’This is our village.’ So no one trusted anyone. We wore masks, and that marked us as outsiders.”
It hasn’t been an easy year for families looking for an escape. Some residents of rural areas and heavily trafficked tourist destinations have turned into vacation vigilantes, shaming outsiders who they feel may be putting them at risk of exposure to the virus. Ask around, and you’ll hear stories about dirty looks and locals grilling and shaming vacationers who show up with out-of-state plates.