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Guide to State Quarantine Rules for Travelers

COVID-19 restrictions vary across the country as CDC guidelines evolve to include vaccinations

man quarantined at home, visiting with woman through sliding glass door

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En español | To keep the coronavirus outbreak from spreading through their regions, many states are asking or requiring some or all out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for 10 days to two weeks upon arrival. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new quarantine guidelines for those who have been vaccinated: People who have received both doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine will no longer be required to quarantine after being exposed to someone with COVID-19. The easing of quarantine guidelines applies to people two weeks after they are fully vaccinated, who are within three months of having received their last dose and have remained symptom-free.

But states have responded differently — or not at all — regarding how their quarantine policies for travelers might change based on the CDC announcement. California is among the many states yet to say whether COVID-19 vaccination can exempt travelers from its quarantine requirements. Meanwhile, Massachusetts’ online guidance says, “At this time, vaccinated individuals must continue to comply with the Governor’s Travel Order and related testing and quarantine requirements.” New Hampshire’s website now notes that visitors who have been fully vaccinated can avoid quarantining.

Quarantine rules and enforcement of those rules already vary widely across the country (see state-specific rules below). Some states allow visitors in without quarantining if they offer proof of a negative test for COVID-19 taken within three days of arrival. Because it takes longer than three days to get results at many testing sites around the country, officials may ask visitors to quarantine until they receive proof of a negative test.

Other states say a test isn’t a reliable substitute for quarantining. Plus, a city might have its own quarantine rules, separate from its state’s. (Example: Chicago has strict quarantine rules for travelers, but Illinois doesn’t.)

A few states are presenting their quarantine policies as recommendations, with no penalties for noncompliance. South Carolina doesn’t use the word “quarantine” in its travel guidance for residents but says, “If you have traveled in the past 14 days, please monitor your health, stay home as much as possible, and wear a mask while in public.”

But other states are far more serious, some threatening fines of up to $25,000 for noncompliance (as in Alaska).

“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.”

CDC Guidance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that because travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19, it recommends delaying travel at this time. 

If you do plan to travel, ask:

  • Whether COVID-19 is spreading in your community or the area you’re visiting. If so, you may have a greater chance of becoming infected or infecting others.
  • If you or a loved one 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.

Who can go where?

Here is a guide for those destinations that require quarantining. Unless otherwise stated, quarantine rules noted below require isolation for 14 days or the duration of the stay — whichever is shorter. 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 website for details.

(Note: For a full list of states’ coronavirus-related regulations, including rules for facial coverings, see AARP's guide.)

  • AlaskaThe state recently eased its restrictions a bit. Nonresidents and residents entering the state still must fill out a traveler declaration form on the Alaska Travel Portal that lists where they’ve traveled in the previous two weeks. Residents who have been out of state for longer than 72 hours are asked to take a free COVID-19 test upon their return. If your test is negative, you are now asked to “be a COVID-conscious traveler” and limit exposure to others for 14 days, including avoiding indoor areas and large gatherings. The state also suggests getting a second COVID-19 test 5 to 14 days after arriving in Alaska. If you test positive, you must call 800-478-0084 and not travel until you’ve been cleared by public health authorities. Vaccinated travelers should get tested for COVID-19 but do not need to follow strict social distancing while they are awaiting test results.

    Penalties:
    Fine of up to $25,000

  • California: Because the state “continues to grapple with its own surge of COVID-19 cases,” the California Department of Public Health warns, visitors from other states or countries are “strongly discouraged from entering California.” Those who do, including returning California residents, are asked to quarantine for 10 days after arrival (unless their travel was for essential purposes). “These persons should limit their interactions to their immediate household.” Californians are asked to avoid nonessential travel to any part of the state more than 120 miles from their place of residence, or to other states or countries.

    Penalties:
    None

  • Colorado: Pitkin County, home to the Aspen Snowmass ski area, has its own rules: You’ll need to complete a Traveler Affidavit and quarantine for 10 days after arrival in the county unless you can show proof of a negative test result for COVID-19 taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. Otherwise, you’ll need to take a test at your own expense after your arrival in Pitkin County and quarantine until you receive a negative result. It adds, however, “If you have successfully completed both doses of the vaccination and it is at least two weeks since your second dose, you do not need to complete the testing requirement of the Traveler Affidavit.” You can check out the state’s online map to see restrictions and COVID-19 caseloads in different counties.

    Penalties: Possible fine of $5,000 for failure to comply

  • 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 10 days and fill out a travel health form. Those states, marked in red on an online map updated every Tuesday, cover much of the country (currently only Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey are exempt, due to their proximity to Connecticut). 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). These rules apply regardless of whether you have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

    Penalties: Potential civil penalty of $500 for each violation

  • District of Columbia: Washington, D.C., requires anyone (resident or visitor) traveling for nonessential purposes from certain high-risk states where the “seven-day moving average daily new COVID-19 case rate is 10 or more per 100,000 persons” to get a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival in the city (Virginia and Maryland are exempt). It asks that travelers not visit until they receive their negative test results, and if they are staying longer than three days, to limit their activities until they are tested again (free tests are provided) three to five days after arriving and receive a second negative result. The alternative is to quarantine for two weeks or the length of their stay. D.C. residents should limit activities for 14 days after returning from a high-risk area or get tested for COVID-19. There is no stated exemption for those who’ve been vaccinated.

    Penalties: Include potential fines (amount not specified) or summary suspension or revocation of licenses

  • Hawaii: All travelers (residents and visitors alike) need to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test before their departure to Hawaii. They can have a paper copy to show upon arrival or can upload it when registering online through the Safe Travels system (a paper copy is recommended as a backup). Anyone arriving without a negative test must quarantine for 10 days (or the duration of their trip) “without exception.” Note that it must be an FDA-approved nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) from a trusted testing site. There are inter-island quarantine requirements that are explained on the state’s website. Islands such as Kauai and Maui have their own requirements; check their sites for details.

    Penalties: Violating the order is a criminal offense and subject to up to a $5,000 fine and/or a year’s imprisonment.

  • IllinoisThere are no statewide quarantine ordersThe state suggests that residents who travel to high-risk areas “Stay home if possible after returning and monitor your health for 14 days.” Chicago has its own 10-day quarantine mandate for anyone arriving from one of the many states it considers high-risk, included on its Orange list (a colored map is kept on the city’s website). Visitors from those states can offer proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival as an alternative to quarantine. The city allows an exemption for those who have been fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to arrival.

    Penalties:
    Violators in Chicago are subject to fines of $100 to $500 per day, up to $7,000.

  • Kansas: Kansans are asked to quarantine for 14 days if they have “attended/traveled to mass gathering events out-of-state of 500 people or greater where individuals do not socially distance (6 feet) and wear masks.” (There are also requirements for residents returning from cruising.) The mandate explains that those in quarantine should monitor symptoms and “should not attend school, work or any other setting where they are not able to maintain about a 6-foot distance from other people.” They can shorten their quarantine by taking a COVID-19 test on day six; if the test is negative, they can be removed from quarantine on day eight, following CDC guidance.

    Penalties: Violating the order is a Class C misdemeanor, with fines from $25 to $100.

  • Kentucky: The state is discouraging all out-of-state leisure travel. Those who do travel for nonessential purposes are urged to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in or return to Kentucky, or follow CDC guidance for alternate options to shorten the quarantine period.

    Penalties: None

  • Maine: Those visiting Maine are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result or opt to self-quarantine for 10 days. They now also need to fill out a certificate of compliance, assuring that they will follow the rules, and submit it to their place of lodging. Only travelers from Vermont and New Hampshire are considered low-risk and therefore exempt.

    Penalties: “Punishment of up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and the payment of civil damages to the State for its costs associated with testing, investigating, contact tracing, and otherwise determining the extent of COVID-19 transmission.”

  • Maryland: Travelers coming from high-risk states (with positivity rates above 10 percent) should be tested for COVID-19 and quarantine for two weeks or until they receive a negative test result. Maryland currently considers only a handful of states to be high-risk, based on information listed by the CDC.

    Penalties: None

  • Massachusetts: Travelers entering the state (including residents returning home from certain high-risk areas) are required to self-quarantine for 10 days or show a negative result from a COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. They must complete the Massachusetts Travel Form as well if they’re over age 18. Travelers from states with low rates of COVID-19 (right now only Hawaii and North Dakota) are exempt. Hotels and other short-term accommodations have been asked to communicate the rule to guests. There is no current exemption for people who have been vaccinated.

    Penalties: Failure to complete the form or quarantine may result in a fine of $500 a day.

  • Minnesota: Incoming visitors and residents returning from other states are asked to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and to watch for symptoms. Out-of-state travel is “highly discouraged.” More details on the state’s quarantine guidance are online.

    Penalties: None

  • New Hampshire: Those traveling to New Hampshire who have been outside of New England (including New Hampshire residents) for an extended period are required to self-quarantine for 10 days. A person who is asymptomatic and has a negative PCR test on or after day 7 of quarantining may shorten or end the quarantine. You are exempt from quarantining if you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and more than 14 days have passed since you’ve received the second dose of your COVID-19 vaccine or “if you have previously tested positive for active COVID-19 infection (by PCR or antigen testing) in the last 90 days (if you had a previous infection that was more than 90 days ago, you must still follow all quarantine requirements).”

    Penalties: None

  • New Jersey: The state discourages all interstate travel. Those who do visit and residents returning from anywhere outside the region (beyond New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware) are asked to “consider getting tested with a viral test (not an antibody test) 1 to 3 days before the trip and again 3 to 5 days after the trip.” If they test negative, they should still quarantine for 7 days. If they test positive or can’t get tested, they should quarantine for at least 10 days.

    Penalties: None. The guidelines are “voluntary, but compliance is expected.”

  • New Mexico: Travelers arriving in New Mexico, including returning residents, from states deemed high-risk based on COVID-positivity rates (as depicted on the state’s official map) are no longer required to self-quarantine for two weeks or the length of their stay. Now travelers from anywhere outside the state are “strongly advised” to self-quarantine for 14 days and be tested for COVID-19 upon their arrival in New Mexico.

    Penalties
    : Apparently none, though the executive order declares that those who don’t comply “shall be subject to involuntary isolation or quarantine.”

  • New York: The state is allowing visitors or returning residents to offer a negative COVID-19 test as an alternative to its mandatory 10-day quarantine. Anyone who has been out of state for more than 24 hours “must obtain a test within three days of departure, prior to arrival in New York,” and quarantine for three days. On the fourth day, if another test comes back negative, they can exit quarantine. Everyone arriving also needs to fill out the state’s health form. If you have questions, you can call 888-364-3065 or email. 

    Penalties: $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 are subject to a $2,000 fine “and may be brought to a hearing and ordered to complete mandatory quarantine.”

  • Ohio: Those entering Ohio after traveling to states reporting positive COVID-19 testing rates of 15 percent or higher are asked to quarantine for two weeks. The state advises: “Remain at home and avoid all in-person activities,” including grocery shopping. The shrinking number of high-risk states are indicated in orange on Ohio’s Department of Health map, updated every Wednesday. This is “intended as guidance and is not a mandate.”

    Penalties: None

  • Oregon: The state recommends a two-week quarantine for returning residents and visitors from out of state.

    Penalties: None

  • Pennsylvania: The state requires that all people over age 11 who enter Pennsylvania produce evidence of a negative COVID-19 test or place themselves in quarantine for 10 days without testing or in a seven-day quarantine with a negative test on or after day 5. This includes Pennsylvanians returning from trips of more than 24 hours to other states.

    Penalties: Possible fines from $25 to $300 for noncompliance

  • Rhode IslandIf you are coming to Rhode Island from a state with a COVID-19 positivity rate of greater than 5 percent — currently more than 20 states (the list is updated regularly — you must self-quarantine for 10 days. If you have a negative result from a test taken within 72 hours of your arrival or 5 days after you arrived, you may shorten your quarantine to 7 days. Those who have been vaccinated are not exempt.

    Penalties: 
    No more than $100 for the first violation

  • Vermont: The state has implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine (or a seven-day quarantine followed by a negative test) for anyone returning or traveling to Vermont, unless the travel is for essential purposes. Travelers arriving from out of state can quarantine in their home state, which will allow them to avoid a quarantine once they arrive in Vermont. Those who haven’t completed a pre-arrival quarantine need to do so “in a Vermont lodging establishment or with friends and family (travelers must stay in their quarantine location for the duration of quarantine other than to travel to and from a test site).” If you’re staying at a hotel, you will need to confirm at check-in or while making the reservation that you are complying with these rules.

    Penalties: Law enforcement may educate violators on the rule. “Members of the Vermont State Police in November 2020 began conducting compliance checks and educational visits at lodging facilities, bars and restaurants statewide,” according to the state website.  

  • Washington: The state is now recommending a two-week quarantine for returning residents and visitors from out of state.

    Penalties: None

Editor's note: This story was originally published on July 31, 2020. It's been updated to reflect recent quarantine rules.

Christina Ianzito is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who joined AARP in 2010. She’s the travel and books editor for aarp.org and AARP The Magazine, and also edits and writes health, entertainment and other stories for aarp.org. She received a 2020 Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing.

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