With the Thanksgiving holiday almost here and more than 2 million new cases of the coronavirus already reported this month, nearly half the country, including all of the West Coast and the Northeast, has quarantine or travel restrictions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend that Americans stay home for the holiday and that people should travel as little as possible in general.
“Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces,” the CDC says on its website.
As many as 50 million people were expected to travel for Thanksgiving this year, with 95% of all trips happening by car, according to a forecast from AAA. Despite the pandemic, that’s only a 10% drop compared with last year, although AAA noted that its modeling was done earlier this fall, before states like California, Pennsylvania and others implemented new quarantine restrictions in response to the alarming rise in virus cases. The number of air travelers was expected to be half what it was last year.
People who are planning to travel outside of their home state should familiarize themselves with the virus rates where they plan to visit and assess the risk. For those who do decide to travel, the CDC offers a series of recommendations for safety: that people wear a face mask in public, wash their hands frequently, avoid touching their face, keep 6 feet from others, cover coughs and sneezes, and use drive-thru service and curbside pickup at restaurants and stores.
Here is a summary of current U.S. restrictions for leisure travelers, although many states do not apply them to those staying for less than 24 hours. Some municipalities or counties may have more stringent regulations. There are generally exemptions for essential workers who are on the job, including health care workers, members of the military and others, but even they may be subject to some restrictions. Visits for medical care may be considered essential, as they are in Massachusetts, but some states, like New York, require the patient and their companion to remain quarantined when they are not at their appointment.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Alabama.
All nonresidents older than 10 must upload proof of a negative molecular-based SARS-CoV-2 test to an online travel portal, where they can also submit a travel declaration and self-isolation plan. Those who were tested within 72 hours before departure and are awaiting their results can enter the state, but must quarantine until proof of a negative finding can be uploaded. The state requests travelers get a second test done five to 14 days after arriving in Alaska.
Visitors arriving without a previously taken test can get one for $250 and must self-quarantine while awaiting results, which may take three to five days or more. Testing is free for Alaska residents, who also have the option of a two-week quarantine instead of a test. Travelers pay their own quarantine costs.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Arizona.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Arkansas.
California has been urging visitors and returning residents to self-quarantine for 14 days. Californians are discouraged from traveling for tourism or nonessential reasons. The state recommends that visitors call ahead to learn what local restrictions may also be in place.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions; however, Coloradans are discouraged from nonessential travel.
People arriving from places other than Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C., must self-quarantine for 14 days and fill out a mandatory health form if they plan to stay for more than 24 hours. Travelers can avoid or shorten the quarantine period by providing proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before arrival. A test can also be taken after arriving, but the traveler must remain in isolation until written proof of the negative result is provided to the Commissioner of Public Health by email at DPH.COVID-Travel@ct.gov or by fax at (860) 326-0529.
The order applies to any traveler who has spent at least 24 hours in a high-risk area in the two weeks before their visit. Failure to comply with the order carries a fine of up to $500 per violation.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Delaware.
District of Columbia
Anyone visiting for more than 24 hours from a high-risk area must get a negative coronavirus test no more than 72 hours before their arrival. If they are staying in Washington for more than three days, they must have another test done three to five days after arriving.
The order excludes travelers from Maryland and Virginia because of their relationship with the district, but it applies to any jurisdiction with more than 10 positive cases per 100,000 people per day. The government of the District of Columbia isn’t providing a list of regions meeting the threshold, but an interactive map put together by The New York Times provides that information on a county-by-county basis.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Florida.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Georgia.
People arriving in Hawaii can avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine by providing proof of a coronavirus-negative Nucleic Acid Amplification test taken from a list of specific providers within 72 hours of the final leg of the trip. Beginning Nov. 24, travelers must have their negative test results before arrival in Hawaii to bypass quarantine. Travelers must also pass temperature screening at the airport and fill out a travel and health declaration form. Those whose test results are pending must quarantine for 14 days or the length of their stay, whichever is shorter.
In addition to the pre-travel test, some counties require travelers age 5 and older to obtain a subsequent test after arrival. The County of Hawaii will randomly select about 25% of travelers for a free second test at the airport, and the visitor must stay at the airport while awaiting the result, usually about 30 minutes. The counties of Maui and Kaua’i request visitors take a voluntary second test 72 hours after arrival. The test is free in Maui County. In Kaua’i County, it is free for residents, but there is a $150 charge for visitors, which is offset by a gift certificate for that amount valid at certain restaurants and attractions. Additional restrictions for travel between counties also exists.
People violating state quarantine requirements face up to a $5,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Idaho.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Illinois. However, under an emergency travel order, Chicago has implemented a color-coded system to indicate whether visitors need to obtain a negative coronavirus test or quarantine. The colors — red, orange and yellow — are based on virus levels in other states and how those levels compare to the situation in Chicago.
Those traveling from a “red” state are asked to avoid travel, but if they visit Chicago, they must quarantine for 14 days, or the length of their stay, whichever is shorter. As of Nov. 20, that will include Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
People from “orange” states are also asked to stay home, but should they visit, they can either quarantine or obtain a negative virus test result no more than 72 hours before their arrival. As of Nov. 20, those requirements will apply to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
Nonessential travel from the “yellow” states is discouraged, but there are no restrictions for travelers from these lower-risk areas, which as of Nov. 20 include only Hawaii, Maine and Vermont.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Indiana.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Iowa.
Residents and visitors who visited South Dakota on or after Nov. 4 or North Dakota on or after Oct. 21 are required to quarantine for two weeks. Quarantine restrictions also apply to those who attended any out-of-state gathering that included 500 people or more where individuals did not wear masks and socially distance by 6 feet, and anyone who was on a cruise ship or river cruise after March 15.
Kentucky recommends a 14-day quarantine for those who visited the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Louisiana.
Residents of New Hampshire and Vermont are allowed to enter the state without restriction. Everyone else must either self-quarantine for 14 days or sign a document stating that they had a negative result to a PCR or antigen coronavirus test within the previous 72 hours. The rule also applies to those taking a day trip out of state. Those in quarantine are allowed to leave their hotel only for limited outdoor activities, such as hiking, when no other people are around.
An exemption to the testing exists for those younger than 18 who are traveling from a nonexempt state to Maine with adults who have a recent negative test. Maine residents who travel to a state not on the exempted list must also quarantine when they return or, alternatively, test negative for the virus.
Visitors and returning residents are asked to get a virus test in the 72 hours before arriving in Maryland or upon arrival.
Those Marylanders who have traveled in the past week to a state with a positivity rate of greater than 10% should get a test and self-quarantine until a negative result is received.
That leaves only Hawaii, Maine, New York City and Vermont, as well as the U.S. territories, excluding Puerto Rico, as non-restricted places to visit or return from.
Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia are always exempt.
Except for commuters, travelers passing through and people coming from states with a lower coronavirus transmission rate, anyone older than 10 must either quarantine for 14 days or provide proof of a negative molecular (PCR) SARS-CoV2 test taken within the previous 72 hours. Those awaiting test results must quarantine until a negative result is received. All adults older than 18 (or a minor traveling alone) who enter Massachusetts must fill out a travel form.
As of Nov. 21, the exemption applies only to those who were in either Hawaii or Vermont. Those who fail to comply with the rules face fines of up to $500 per day.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Michigan.
Minnesota is discouraging out-of-state travel, and visitors and returning residents are asked to quarantine for 14 days when entering the state.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Mississippi.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Missouri.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Montana.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Nebraska.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Nevada.
Those traveling to New Hampshire from states outside of New England “for an extended period of time” are asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.
Most people coming into New Jersey for more than 24 hours from a state or area with a high rate of confirmed infections are asked to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days, even if they had a recent negative virus test.
As of Nov. 17, the areas identified as lower risk or exempted from the order are Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C.
Travelers who have spent more than 24 hours in other areas are also asked to complete an online survey providing details about where they have been and where they plan to stay.
All travelers and residents who are not coming from a low-risk region must self-quarantine for 14 days. The only low-risk state currently is Hawaii.
As of Nov. 17, New York is allowing travelers the option of avoiding its mandatory two-week quarantine with a series of tests and a shorter period of isolation.
Those who have been out of the state for 24 hours or more must be able to present a negative test taken in the three days before their arrival, and must quarantine for the first three days in New York. Another coronavirus test must be taken on the fourth day, and if it is negative, the person may leave quarantine. Those not wanting to take the tests must still quarantine for 14 days per Health Department regulations.
States that are contiguous with New York are exempted from the quarantine protocol. People who left New York for less than 24 hours do not need to get a test before returning, nor do they need to quarantine. However, they must get a coronavirus test on their fourth day in the state.
Visitors must fill out a Health Department traveler form. Those who don’t comply with the coronavirus rules for travelers face a possible fine of up to $10,000.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in North Carolina.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in North Dakota.
Traveling Ohioans and out-of-state tourists who have visited an area of high risk, or who have had possible exposure to the coronavirus, are asked to voluntarily quarantine for 14 days.
As of Nov. 18, Ohio has identified the following states as high risk: Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Oklahoma.
Oregon is urging visitors and returning residents to self-quarantine for 14 days. Oregonians are discouraged from traveling for nonessential reasons.
Beginning Nov. 20, all travelers entering Pennsylvania, whether visitors or residents, must have proof of a negative coronavirus test in the 72 hours before entering the state, or they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
Those who fail to comply could be fined up to $300.
Only those coming to Rhode Island from lower-risk states are exempt from self-quarantining for two weeks. Alternatively, travelers coming from high-risk areas can provide a negative test for the virus that was taken within the previous 72 hours. People who receive a negative test during their quarantine can stop isolating, although the state recommends the full two-week quarantine.
The states identified as lower risk are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont.
Visitors must also complete a certificate of compliance and an out-of-state travel screening form when they arrive in the state.
There are no statewide restrictions; however, South Carolina recommends that people who have traveled in the past two weeks stay home as much as possible and monitor their health.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in South Dakota. Some routes entering tribal lands are closed to the general public.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Tennessee.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Texas.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Utah.
Visitors or returning Vermont residents must quarantine for 14 days. Those without any coronavirus symptoms may get a PCR test on or after the seventh day of their quarantine. If the result is negative, they are free to resume their activities.
Those traveling to Vermont in a personal car (including a rental) or on a private plane may complete Vermont’s requirements in their home state and then, assuming they limit stops en route, enter Vermont without having to quarantine again. Nonessential travel is discouraged, even within the state.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Virginia. However, those who traveled to areas of widespread coronavirus transmission, or who participated in higher-risk activities — such as going to larger gatherings, including sporting events, crowded restaurants, weddings or funerals — as well as those who traveled on a cruise ship or river boat were asked to take “extra precautions” to protect others for 14 days after returning to Virginia.
Washington is urging visitors and returning residents to self-quarantine for 14 days. State residents are being discouraged from traveling for nonessential reasons.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in West Virginia.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions. However, the state’s Department of Health Services recommends that Wisconsinites cancel or postpone all travel, including travel within the state.
As of Nov. 17, there were no statewide restrictions in Wyoming.
This article was written by Karen Schwartz, a reporter for The New York Times.