En español | Dawn DiFiore and her family were just five days out from their longed-for vacation in upstate New York when they saw the news: New York was requiring Maryland visitors — along with those from dozens of other states — to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Penalties for violations start at $2,000, which meant “we wouldn't even be able to go hiking."
DiFiore quickly booked a North Carolina rental, where they were free to hike and explore while following their usual coronavirus-era routines of mask wearing and social distancing.
Welcome to the confusing world of travel quarantines.
To keep the coronavirus outbreak from spreading through their regions, 18 states and the District of Columbia ask or require out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. (Note that last week Florida dropped its quarantine requirement for people arriving from the New York area.) But rules vary widely and change with the COVID-19 numbers, with different penalties, if any, for noncompliance and definitions of what quarantine means. (See state list below.)
"There is no uniform message across the states, and that's extremely difficult for travelers,” says Jan L. Jones, professor of hospitality and tourism at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. “I can't even navigate it."
Rhode Island, which requires anyone arriving from a list of 30-plus states to quarantine for two weeks, allows people in quarantine “to obtain necessities such as groceries, gas or medication, to drop off or pick up children from day care, summer camps,” to travel for medical treatment, and to “attend funeral or memorial services.” In Vermont, however, “Quarantine means staying at a home or dwelling for 14 days before doing any activities outside of the home, like grocery shopping or getting together with friends or family.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that when considering a trip, ask:
- Whether COVID-19 is spreading in your community or the area you're visiting. If so, you may have a higher chance of becoming infected or infecting others.
- If you or a loved one who is returning home has an underlying condition that might increase the risk for complications from the disease.
- If you'll be able to maintain a 6-foot distance between yourself and others during travel and at your destination.
- Whether the destination requires that visitors quarantine themselves for 14 days upon arrival.
Some states allow visitors in if they offer proof of a negative test for COVID-19 taken within three days of arrival, but it takes longer than three days to get results at many testing sites around the country. Some states ask visitors to quarantine until they receive proof of a negative test, while others say a test isn't a reliable replacement for quarantining. Plus, a city might have its own quarantine rules, separate from its state's (example: Chicago has quarantine rules for travelers; Illinois doesn't).
Many states, such as Pennsylvania, are presenting their quarantine policies as recommendations, with no penalties for noncompliance.
But other states are far more serious. Hawaii may be the most so: Desperate to keep its numbers of COVID-19 cases low, the state has discouraged visitors from the U.S. mainland, and those who do arrive must quarantine or face criminal penalties. Nearly 200 visitors have reportedly been arrested for violations (including one woman who posted pictures on social media of herself eating out in Honolulu when she was supposed to be in quarantine). Visitors also need to respond to a daily online check-in confirming their health and that they remain in quarantine.
Who can go where?
Figuring out which visitors need to quarantine in which states can become a research project. For example, Vermont's quarantine rules are based on countywide COVID-19 case counts; its website includes a map of the northeastern U.S., indicating whether visitors from each county will need to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in Vermont (if your county's green, you're clear for a quarantine-free visit).
Here is a guide for those destinations that require quarantine. Unless otherwise stated, quarantine rules noted below require 14 days of isolation, or the duration of the stay — whichever is shorter. And those states that offer the option of submitting a negative COVID-19 test typically require it to have been taken within 72 hours of the visitor's arrival in the state. There are often exceptions for essential workers; check each state's official websites for details.
(Note: For a full list of states’ coronavirus-related regulations, include rules for facial coverings, see AARP's guide.)
- Alaska: Nonresidents must fill out a traveler declaration form listing where they've traveled in the previous two weeks and either show a negative COVID-19 test (upload your negative result or proof of test taken into the Alaska Travel Portal), agree to be tested on arrival or opt to self-quarantine.
Penalties: fine of up to $25,000.
- Connecticut: Travelers arriving from states with high COVID-19 infection rates ("higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or a state with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average") must self-quarantine for two weeks and fill out a travel health form. If you can't quarantine for some reason, and have written proof that you've recently tested negative for COVID-19, you can avoid quarantine by sending the test result to the Commissioner of Public Health (DPH.COVID-Travel@ct.gov or fax 860-326-0529).
Penalties: potential civil penalty of $1,000 for each violation.
- District of Columbia: Washington, D.C., now requires anyone (resident or visitor) traveling for nonessential purposes in certain high-risk states (currently 29 states, to be updated every two weeks where the “seven-day moving average daily new COVID-19 case rate is 10 or more per 100,000 persons") to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in the District. Mayor Muriel Bowser's order says that people in quarantine should: “Stay at their residence or in a hotel room, leaving only for essential medical appointments or treatment or to obtain food and other essential goods when the delivery of food or other essential goods to their residence or hotel is not feasible.” The order will remain in place until at least Oct. 9, and exempts those arriving from neighboring Virginia and Maryland.
Penalties: none stated.
- Hawaii: Two-week quarantine in place for all travelers arriving in the state; beginning Sept. 1, visitors will also have the option of showing a negative COVID-19 test result in place of quarantine. They'll need to show the results upon arrival at the airport.
Penalties: Violating the order is a criminal offense, and subject to up to a $5,000 fine and/or a year imprisonment.
- Idaho: A two-week self-quarantine is in effect for Ada County, for those arriving “from an area outside Idaho with substantial community spread or case rates higher than Idaho.” The rest of the state does not ask visitors to quarantine.
Penalties: None stated.
- Illinois: There are no statewide quarantine orders, but Chicago has its own two-week quarantine mandate for anyone arriving from a long list of states that have experienced “a surge in new COVID-19 cases.” Quarantine is necessary even if you have proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
Penalties: Violators are subject to fines of $100 to $500 per day, up to $7,000.
- Kansas: Kansans who return from visits to Florida between June 29 and Aug. 11 or from cruise ship travel must quarantine for two weeks.
Penalties: Violating the order is a class C misdemeanor, with fines from $25 to $100.
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- Maine: Gov. Janet Mills modified a travel mandate that requires those visiting Maine who plan to stay in a lodging establishment to show a negative COVID-19 test or opt to self-quarantine for 14 days. They now also need to fill out a Certificate of Compliance, assuring that they will follow the rules. Travelers from five states — Connecticut, Vermont, New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire, are exempt.
Penalties: none stated.
- Maryland: Travelers coming from high-risk states (with positivity rates of 10 percent or more) should be tested for COVID-19 and quarantine for two weeks or until they receive negative test results. Those states, based on information listed by the CDC, are currently Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and Texas.
Penalties: none stated
- Massachusetts: The state is getting more serious about its quarantine rules. Travelers entering the state (including residents returning home from certain high-risk areas) are required to self-quarantine for two weeks or show a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. Starting Aug. 1, they must complete the Massachusetts travel form as well if they're over age 18. Travelers from states with low rates of COVID-19 (currently Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, Hawaii and New Jersey) are exempt. Hotels and other short-term accommodations have been asked to communicate the rule to guests.
Penalties: Failure to complete the form or quarantine may result in a $500 fine per day.
- New Hampshire: Those traveling to New Hampshire from outside New England for an extended period of time are asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.
- New Jersey: Travelers from a long list of states and territories (the list will be updated every Tuesday), including residents returning home, are asked to quarantine upon arrival — and proof of a negative COVID-19 test won't give you a pass. The state's advisory notes, “If you test negative, you are still advised to self-quarantine for 14 days because you remain in the incubation period.”
- New Mexico: All out-of-state travelers arriving in New Mexico, or returning residents, are required to self-quarantine for two weeks or the length of their stay, with exemptions for first responders and other essential workers. Anyone quarantining “may only leave a residence or place of lodging to receive medical care.” Those passing through the state are asked to only stop for essential activities like pumping gas or buying food.
Penalties: Apparently none so far, though the executive order declares that those who don't comply “shall be subject to involuntary isolation or quarantine."
- New York: The state is being particularly tough with its two-week quarantine rule for visitors from more than 30 states and territories with high COVID-19 rates; those “individual(s) must not be in public or otherwise leave the quarters that they have identified as suitable for their quarantine,” is stated among other detailed guidelines in the ruling. It doesn't apply to people passing through the state for less than 24 hours, though they'll be expected to follow the universal mask and social distancing rules. Officials will be greeting arrivals at airports to assure that visitors have filled out the state's health form; if you arrive by car or train, you'll need to fill out the form online. New York City also recently began checking for compliance among arrivals at busy entry points such as Penn Station.
Penalties: a $2,000 fine for the first violation, $5,000 for the second and up to $10,000 if the person causes harm. Visitors arriving by air who refuse to fill out the health form may be fined $2,000.
- Ohio: Those entering Ohio after travel to states reporting positive COVID-19 testing rates of 15 percent or higher are asked to quarantine for two weeks. The list, updated every Wednesday, currently includes six states.
Penalties: none stated.
- Pennsylvania: The state recommends that anyone who arrives from a state “where there are high amounts of COVID-19 cases” quarantine for two weeks upon return. The list includes more than 20 states.
Penalties: none. This is “a recommendation, not a requirement"
- Rhode Island: If you are coming to Rhode Island from one of the states with a positivity rate of COVID-19 greater than 5 percent — more than 30 states, plus Puerto Rico (the list is updated regularly) — must self-quarantine for two weeks, with exemptions for health care workers, those needing to pick up children or obtain necessities such as medication or groceries. A recent negative COVID-19 test can offer you exemption from the quarantine rule, though “quarantining for 14 days is always preferred over relying on a negative test result.” Travelers also need to complete a certificate of compliance with out-of-state travel quarantine/testing requirements and an out-of-state travel screening form upon arriving in Rhode Island.
Penalties: none stated.
- South Carolina: A two-week quarantine is recommended for “travelers returning home from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread."
Penalties: none stated.
- Vermont: Out-of-state travelers must quarantine for two weeks if they are from counties in the northeast with more than 400 active COVID-19 cases per million (indicated on an online map, updated every Friday), or from anywhere outside the northeast.
Penalties: Law enforcement may educate violators on the rule.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on July 31. It's been updated to reflect recent quarantine rules.