It was the week for targeted lockdowns on movement in European countries; at 12.01 Sunday morning, France introduced a nighttime curfew across all its major metropolitan areas for a minimum of one month (9pm to 6am) and London moved from a tier one (medium) area to a tier two (high) area, where households can no longer mix with other households.
Across the Atlantic, on Thursday, the U.S. added 65,000 new daily cases, the highest since July. On Friday, 70,000 new cases were announced, as nine states set single-day case records, as reported by The New York Times. Epidemiologists are warning that half of U.S. states are “seeing surges unlike anything they experienced earlier in the pandemic”. As reported by AP, new cases per day are on the rise in 44 states, with the biggest surges in the Midwest and Great Plains.
However, there are currently only travel restrictions in 18 states (listed below) meaning that current U.S. travel restrictions don’t match the reality of the pandemic.
North Dakota and South Dakota, for instance, are adding more cases than any other since the start of the pandemic, but there are currently no state-wide travel restrictions in either state. In the Great Plains of North Dakota, one official said residents need to know “how perilously close we are to the edge” as hospital beds are filling up (on October 12, there were only 39 open ICU beds). The state still has no state-wide mask mandate.
Montana–currently with no state-wide travel restrictions–is averaging more than 500 cases every day. Montana’s Cascade County jail was virus-free until recently and now 300 inmates and staff are infected as Covid-19 swarms through the county. Some of the seven Indian reservations have enacted restrictions; crucial, considering that Native Americans are disproportionately affected (they have 5.3 times higher rates of hospitalization and a 1.4 times higher rates of death).
The Covid Act Now warning system (which includes Georgetown, Harvard and Stanford universities among its partners) has many states with no travel restrictions listed at the highest level (red) as “active or imminent outbreak”. North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana are currently the highest 3 states for new daily cases.
Travel restrictions across the U.S.
There are no nationwide travel restrictions across the entire U.S. and many states are allowing unrestricted travel either from their own state or for visitors arriving from other states with high infection rates.
Some states do currently have travel restrictions in place, either in a more general sense (e.g. encouraging self-isolation) or in a much more strict sense, based on a specific percentage or a specific rate of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people. These lists are being updated mostly on a weekly basis, with many more states having been added during the last week (to match the current surge in cases).
32 U.S. states currently have no state-wide travel restrictions
The following states do not currently have any state-wide travel restrictions; Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California (although wildfires are limiting travel around the state), Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana (although visitors to the seven Indian reservations should check), Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina (although the state suggests checking at local destinations), North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota (although roads through Native American reservations might be closed), Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington State (although wildfire conditions need to be monitored), West Virginia, and Wyoming.
18 states currently have travel restrictions
These are Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. (Washington D.C. also has travel restrictions).
Alaska–since August 11, visitors arriving from other states must have; proof of a negative Covid-19 test and a travel declaration; a form from their boss if traveling for work; or pay $250 for a Covid-19 test and self-quarantine until the results come through.
Travelers arriving into Connecticut from a state where they have spent more than 24 hours and which has a higher infection rate than 10 per 100,000 people must quarantine for 14 days. The only way to avoid this quarantine is to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken in the past 72 hours. Written proof of the negative result must be emailed to the Commissioner of Public Health (DPH.COVID-Travel@ct.gov).
From October 15, visitors arriving into Hawaii who are older than 5 years of age must land with an FDA-approved nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) taken no earlier than 72 hours before their flight.
Travelers into Ada County (including Boise) in Idaho, are “encouraged” to quarantine for 14 days.
In Illinois, travel is unrestricted except for people arriving into Chicago from these states following an emergency travel order–Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. This list is updated every Tuesday and implemented the following Friday.
Residents and visitors to Kansas must self-isolate for 14 days if they have taken a sea or river cruise since March or attended an out-of-state mass gathering of more than 500 people (where masks were not worn and it was impossible to keep further than 6 feet apart).
Kentucky is asking that all people arriving from a state where Covid-19 infection rates are higher than 15% (as per John Hopkins University’s website) should undergo a 14-day quarantine. The current list includes people arriving from Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Utah.
People arriving in Maine must enter a 14-day quarantine or sign to say they have had a negative Covid-19 test in the past 72 hours. Residents of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Vermont are exempt from both conditions of entry. People in quarantine may leave hotels or campsites to do outdoor activity such as hiking. Maine residents who travel to states not on the exempt list must also quarantine upon return for 14 days or until a negative test result can be proved.
If passengers arrive into Massachusetts from a low-risk state (currently listed as California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington). Other visitors must quarantine for 14-days or produce a negative Covid-19 test taken in the last 72 hours. The fine for non-compliance is $500.
If entering New Hampshire from other than a New England state (Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island) are asked to self-quarantine if staying “for an extended period of time”.
Visitors to New Jersey who intend to stay for more than 24 hours must quarantine for 14 days if they arrive from somewhere which has a positivity rate of 10% or higher or have 10 people test positive for every 100,000 residents. There are currently 38 states and U.S. jurisdictions which fall into this category.
In New Mexico, the state is asking that visitors self-quarantine for 14 days or the entire length of stay, if it is shorter than 2 weeks. Some states are exempt on a constantly updated list, which currently includes just Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington.
The state of New York is demanding that visitors from states with a positive testing rate of 10% or higher over a seven-day rolling period or had a positive test rate of 10 or more per 100,000 residents must quarantine for 14 days. That list currently includes 38 U.S. states and jurisdictions (the same as for New Jersey).
Ohio is restricting travel from states with a positive testing rate of 15% where arrivals must self-quarantine for 14 days, currently listed as Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Pennsylvania is asking that visitors from states with “a high amount of cases” quarantine for 14 days. This list is currently 25 states long.
Rhode Island visitors must quarantine for 14 days if arriving from states which have a positive testing rate of 5% or more or they can opt out if they have a negative Covid-19 test taken in the last 72 hours. There are currently 32 states on the updated spreadsheet.
Vermont arrivals by bus or plane must quarantine for 14 days or 7 days following a negative Covid-19 test. Rules are a little more lenient for travelers arriving by private car–if they arrive from a county in New England, Mid-Atlantic states, Ohio and West Virginia that has less than 400 cases per 100,000 people (the map is updated every Tuesday), quarantine is not necessary.
Anyone arriving into Washington D.C. from a high-risk state must quarantine for 14 days (with the exception of arrivals from Virginia and Maryland). There are currently 31 states on the high-risk list, last updated 5 October.
All out-of-state arrivals into Wisconsin are asked to stay at home as much as possible for 14 days. Within the state, people are asked to not travel to other rental or private homes.
Current travel guidelines across the U.S.
The Center For Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you don’t travel at all if you want to keep safe; traveling is one sure way of increasing the risk of infection. It also reiterates that you shouldn’t travel at all if you feel sick or if you have been any contact during the past 14 days, with anyone that has suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19.
Research shows that by and large, traveling in a car and then a train, is better than traveling by plane. Hire cars should always be wiped down with antibacterial gel and wipe down surfaces at rest stops or when filling up with gas, and always keep to strict social distancing rules–wear a mask in public and keep more than 6 feet away from anyone not in your household.
The safest option is still to take your own food or order takeout from curbside collection or drive-through restaurants. Avoid large social gatherings and crowded places, such as airports, bus and train stations. If necessary, early morning travel is better because it is more likely that public buildings and transport will have been disinfected throughout the night.
Masks are advised by the CDC–as the office of the Governor of Texas says, “an itty-bitty piece of cloth goes a long way towards keeping yourself and others healthy” (quoted by CNN).
According to John Hopkins University, there have been 217,700 deaths across the U.S. in total with nearly 8 million cases detected.