In an effort to keep COVID-19 from spreading, a growing number of states and cities have mandated that out-of-state travelers — especially those coming from high-risk states — self-quarantine upon arriving.
But travel quarantines, it turns out, can be confusing and very hard to enforce. Even more telling, most states’ travel advisories do not include any consequences for violators.
This is despite evidence that road trips are contributing to the spread of COVID-19 along US interstates, according to research from PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “Travel is certainly a huge driving factor,” wrote the researchers earlier this month.
“We certainly know that the virus doesn’t have any geographic boundaries, so that if there is mixing of communities through travel, whether it’s for work or vacation, that can increase the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Gregory Tasian, a lead researcher at PolicyLab as well as an associate professor of urology and epidemiology and a senior scholar in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Here’s the lowdown on the states and cities with COVID-related travel restrictions in place — and whether or not those rules are being enforced.
Alaska: Maximum fine of $25,000.
Since June 6, a health mandate has offered visitors a choice: self-quarantine or get tested for COVID-19. Travelers tested prior to arrival may only enter the state if they test negative. If travelers opt to be tested upon arrival, they must quarantine at their own expense until they get results. Starting August 11, this latter option will no longer be available and nonresident visitors will be required to have a negative test before they arrive in the 49th State.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, the quarantine order relies on “voluntary cooperation, not enforcement.” Governor Mike Dunleavy said in May that he didn’t want to use a “heavy hand” when enforcing health mandates.
Chicago: Fines of up to $500 per day, to a maximum of $7,000.
Since July 6, the city of Chicago has been under an emergency travel order mandating that visitors must quarantine for 14 days if they come from states with 15 or more new confirmed cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average. Originally the restricted list included 15 states; today the total has expanded to 22.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “enforcement of the order so far has been nonexistent, save for some billboards and signs that [Mayor Lori] Lightfoot said were intended to ‘educate’ people to comply.”
But that may be changing. This week, the city health commissioner told reporters that officials will begin levying fines of up to $7,000 against travelers who willfully defy the self-quarantine order.
Connecticut: Maximum fine of $1,000 for each violation.
As part of the the tri-state alliance with New York and New Jersey, Connecticut requires that travelers from the now 34 states with more than 10 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people must quarantine for 14 days or provide proof of a negative test for the disease within 72 hours of arrival. Travelers need to fill out a mandatory online Travel Health Form before arriving.
Upon landing at Connecticut airports, travelers fill out a self-certification form detailing their contact information, where they are coming from and where they will be quarantining. There is no enforcement for travelers arriving into Connecticut by car.
District of Columbia: Fine of $5,000 or 90 days in jail.
Per a brand new travel order from Mayor Muriel Bowser, anyone who travels from 27 states with high COVID-19 infection rates must self-quarantine for two weeks. The order will expire on October 9.
Bowser has admitted that it’s not “realistic” to expect police to catch every single person in violation of the order, and she has asked for the help of community leaders.
Florida: Maximum fine of $500 or 60 days imprisonment.
The Sunshine State is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States but Governor Ron DeSantis’s holdover order from early days in the pandemic when New York was the hot spot is still on the books.
Florida’s quarantine mandate targets travelers from the New York tri-state area (Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York), who must self-isolate for 14 days “from the time of entry into Florida or the duration of the individual’s presence in Florida, whichever is shorter.” This mandate applies whether these Northeasterners arrive by plane or car. Governor Ron DeSantis extended this executive order twice, most recently on July 7. The current order is set to expire on September 5.
During the spring, Florida officials were tracking visitors from the tri-state region, but oversight seems to have eased over the summer, according to local news accounts.
Hawaii: Fines up to $5,000 and/or a year imprisonment.
Per an executive order from Governor David Ige, all out-of-state visitors to the Aloha State must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Upon arrival, travelers must sign a statement acknowledging that violating this order is a criminal offense with a steep fine attached.
Starting September 1, travelers will have the option to avoid quarantining by showing proof of a test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival. Those awaiting test results will need to quarantine until they can prove a negative result. There will be no option for testing upon arrival.
According to a recent Q&A session livestreamed on the governor’s Facebook page, Hawaii officials have completed over 350 compliance checks and made one arrest.
Idaho: No penalty for violations.
Most of the state is in Stage 4 of reopening, but Ada County — which includes Boise and its surrounding area — is still in Stage 3, which means that a 14-day self-quarantine is “encouraged” for people arriving from “an area outside Idaho with substantial community spread or case rates higher than Idaho.”
Currently, Idaho has a very high infection rate of 27.2 new daily positive cases per 100,000 people tested, based on a rolling average over seven days, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute’s COVID-19 risk assessment map. Ten states have even higher positivity rates: Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Nevada, Arizona, South Carolina and Texas.
The quarantine is voluntary.
Kansas: Maximum fine of $100 for each offense.
Florida residents need to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Kansas. The same rule applies to Kansans returning from Florida.
State and local health officer have the authority to issue isolation and quarantine orders, but “for the most part, people will isolate and quarantine themselves without written orders,” according to the state.
Maine: No fine for violations.
Since June, the Pine Tree State has offered visitors a choice: self-quarantine for 14 days or take a Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arrival and prove a negative result. Antigen and Antibody tests are not accepted.
Visitors from New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey are exempt from this requirement.
Upon arriving at their Maine lodgings — hotels, campgrounds, vacation rentals, B&Bs and so on — visitors are asked to complete a Certificate of Compliance form.
“We’re looking for first and foremost for voluntary compliance,” Governor Janet Mills told Maine Public Radio in early July.
Maryland: No penalty for violators.
In a brand new statewide advisory, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan “strongly recommends that all Marylanders refrain from nonessential travel outside of Maryland.”
In addition, “any Marylander who travels to a state with a COVID-19 test positivity rate above 10% should get tested and self-quarantine at home until the test result is received.” That suggestion currrently applies to nine states: Florida, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, Nebraska and Idaho. Virginia and Washington D.C. are exempt from the recommendation.
Adherence is voluntary.
Massachusetts: Maximum fine is $500 per day.
Travelers coming to Massachusetts from 41 U.S. states must fill out an online Massachusetts Travel Form and either self-quarantine for 14 days or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the previous 72 hours.
There is an exemption for visitors from states with fewer than six new daily cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents. Currently, that list includes Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The quarantine order has been in place since March 27, but Governor Charlie Baker only announced the fines last week in a news briefing.
Enforcement is through the honor system. “We’re not going to be stopping cars, but we’re going to expect people to comply,” said Baker.
New Hampshire: No penalty for violators.
The Granite State would prefer that most travelers come another time. While the two-week self-quarantine has been lifted for visitors from surrounding New England States (Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island), “those traveling to New Hampshire from non-New England states for an extended period of time are still asked to self-quarantine for a two-week period,” says the state website.
To add confusion, there is a state directive for hotels and lodgings. When making reservations, out-of-state guests are made aware that they need to self-quarantine for 14 days before arriving in New Hampshire and bring a signed document attesting to this when they arrive.
Enforcement is given lip service. “Residents can contact the Attorney General’s office with any questions or complaints they have,” according to New Hampshire Public Radio. “The AG’s office reviews the concern and contacts the business or organization in question and educates them on the guideline.”
New Jersey: No penalty for violating the order.
Like New York and Connecticut, New Jersey also asks travelers from high-risk states with more than 10 new daily cases per 100,000 residents to self-quarantine. But Governor Phil Murphy’s advisory is the laxest in the region.
Enforcement is based on the honor system. “The self-quarantine is voluntary, but compliance is expected. Travelers and residents returning from impacted states typically will not need to check-in with public health officials, unless otherwise they are involved in contact tracing efforts or required to do so by their employer or any other federal, state or local law or order. It is expected that individuals will follow the recommendation to self-quarantine,” according to the travel advisory.
New Mexico: There is no fine for violators.
On July 7, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham expanded an existing executive order requiring out-of-state visitors who arrive into New Mexico to self-quarantine for two weeks. The previous June 1 executive order had applied only to travelers who flew into New Mexico airports.
Enforcement is problematic, Grisham admitted during a Washington Post podcast. “The hard part about enforcing it is that we’re not at every airport, if people are driving in I do not know, and if one of our hospitality industry partners doesn’t hold them accountable, I may or may not know about that situation,” said the governor.
New York: Maximum fine of $2,000.
On June 24, New York joined New Jersey and Connecticut in requiring travelers from states with high infection rates to self-quarantine for two weeks. The tri-state alliance defines high-risk states as those having 10 or more new daily positive cases per 100,000 residents, based upon a seven-day rolling average. Currently, the law applies to travelers from 34 states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Travelers need to fill out a mandatory online Traveler Health Form before arriving.
The mandate applies to travelers regardless of how they arrive in New York — but visitors arriving by car are on the honor system. Enforcement is concentrated at airports, where officials meet passengers at arrival gates and ask to see the traveler health form.
“You must give officials at the airport your form as to where you came from and where you’re going before you leave the airport,” Cuomo said in a news conference. “It will be enforced in every airport in the state.”
Ohio: No penalty for violators.
The Buckeye State’s COVID-19 travel advisory is aimed at incoming visitors from seven states with an coronavirus infection rate over 15%. Travelers coming into Ohio from those states are urged, but not required, to self-quarantine for two weeks. The advisory also applies to residents of Ohio returning from one of the seven listed states.
Adherence is voluntary.
Pennsylvania: No penalty for violators.
On July 1, the Keystone State introduced travel recommendations for residents returning from 20 states. “If you have traveled, or plan to travel, to an area where there are high amounts of COVID-19 cases, it is recommended that you stay at home for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania.”
Adherence is voluntary.
Rhode Island: Fines begin at $100, up to a maximum of $850 for three offenses.
Visitors coming to Rhode Island from any state with a COVID-19 positivity rate higher than 5% must either self-quarantine for 14 days or produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival. The current list of restricted states is extremely long, and it is updated every Monday before noon ET.
Despite the tough stance, enforcement has relied on the honor system. “We don’t want to punish anyone, we don’t want to levy a fine on anyone,” Governor Gina Raimondo said back in April. “But if you are found to be deliberately, knowingly, purposely, repeatedly violating your quarantine and isolation, well then you will be punished.”
Vermont: No penalty for violators.
Effective since June 15, most travelers arriving in Vermont are required to complete a 14-day quarantine or, alternatively, complete a seven-day quarantine followed by a negative COVID-19 test in their home state before arrival.
There is an exception for residents who live in a large number of northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, including all the New England states plus New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and West Virginia. These are states that “have a similar active COVID-19 caseload to Vermont (defined as less than 400 active cases per million) may enter the state for leisure travel without quarantining if they do so in a personal vehicle,” according to the state website.
All out-of-state travelers staying in hotels, campgrounds or rental properties must sign and complete a certificate of compliance to attest that they have met all quarantine requirements, and are strongly encouraged to register with Sara Alert upon arrival to Vermont to get two weeks of daily reminders to check for common symptoms of COVID-19.
Enforcement relies mainly on the honor system.