It’s becoming increasingly difficult to plan an interstate road trip this summer, as hitting the highway can mean navigating through a patchwork of COVID-19 regulations that vary by state and locality.
Some states are mandating that out-of-state travelers self-quarantine upon arriving, while other states apply the rule to residents returning from higher-risk areas. And still other states require both groups to quarantine.
There is new evidence that road trips are contributing to the spread of COVID-19 along US interstates, according to new research from Policylab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). “Travel is certainly a huge driving factor,” wrote the researchers.
“We see spread along I-80 between central Illinois and Iowa, as well as along the I-90 corridor across upstate New York.” There is also a rise in cases along the I-95 corridor, in cities such as Wilmington, Delaware, and Baltimore, according to Policylab’s research.
Currently, 17 states and localities have travel restrictions or guidance in place:
Connecticut: Since June 24, the tri-state region — Connecticut, New York and New Jersey — have had a coordinated mandate in place requiring travelers from states with high rates of COVID-19 infection to self-quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in any of the three states. Travelers from states with infection levels of 10 percent per 100,000 population on a seven-day rolling average are required to quarantine for 14 days. Currently, the mandate applies to travelers from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
Florida: Travelers entering the Sunshine State from the New York Tri-State Area (Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York) 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 travelers arrive by plane or car.
Governor Ron DeSantis has extended this executive order twice, most recently on July 7. Notably, Florida now has a significantly higher COVID-19 infection rate than any of the states in the New York tri-state region.
Idaho: 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, with a 14-day self-quarantine “encouraged” for people entering Idaho from “an area outside Idaho with substantial community spread or case rates higher than Idaho.”
Currently, Idaho has a high infection rate of 18.4 new daily positive cases per 100,000 people tested, based on a rolling average over seven days. The 12 states with even higher positivity rates include: Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Nevada, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and California.
Illinois: There is no statewide quarantine mandate in Illinois. But since July 6, the city of Chicago has been under an emergency travel order mandating that visitors from 15 states with increasing numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases will have to quarantine for 14 days or face possible fines. That list currently includes Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
The order applies to visitors from designated states with “significant degree of community-wide spread of COVID-19,” which is defined as 15 or more new confirmed cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average. Moving forward, the list of restricted states will be updated every Tuesday.
Kansas: If you have stepped foot in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida or South Carolina, you need to 14-day self-quarantine when you get to Kansas. The same goes if you’ve been on a cruise ship or traveled internationally. This applies to both Kansas residents and visitors to Kansas. The list of restricted states was last updated on June 29.
Maine: Last month, the Pine Tree State began a new initiative that offers visitors a choice: self-quarantine for two weeks or get tested for COVID-19. Visitors from New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey are exempt from this requirement.
For visitors from the remaining 44 states, adults who receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival can forgo the 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Maine. It makes sense to be tested in your home state before arriving; you can be tested in Maine, but then you must quarantine while awaiting the results.
Massachusetts: Since March 27, Massachusetts have instructed all out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days. Since July 1, travelers from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and New Jersey are exempt from this directive.
This guidance is displayed on posters at service plazas along 1-90 (a.k.a. the Mass Turnpike) eastbound, distributed as flyers at major transportation hubs and on posted on highway message boards.
New Hampshire: 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.
New Jersey: On June 24, New Jersey joined New York and Connecticut in launching a new mandate requiring travelers from states with high rates of COVID-19 infection to self-quarantine for two weeks. Right now, the rule applies to travelers from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
New Mexico: Thinking of beginning a road trip tour of the American Southwest in Albuquerque or Santa Fe? 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.
New York: On June 24, New York joined New Jersey and Connecticut in requiring travelers from states with high rates of COVID-19 infection to self-quarantine for two weeks. Currently the law applies to travelers from 19 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
Pennsylvania: On July 1, the Keystone State introduced travel restrictions for residents returning from 15 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. If you travel to the following states, you will need to quarantine for 14 days upon return: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.”
Rhode Island: Rhode Island’s quarantine mandate was updated in early July and no longer applies to all visitors from all states. 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.
Vermont: Effective since June 15, most travelers arriving in Vermont must 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 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.
Wisconsin: “COVID-19 is still spreading across our Wisconsin communities. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick. We recommend Wisconsinites cancel or postpone all travel, including travel within the state,” says the state’s COVID-19 travel webpage. “Some cities and counties in Wisconsin may have you stay at home, or self-quarantine for 14 days after your travel.”
Worth noting: Though they are not road trip destinations, both Hawaii and Alaska also impose COVID-19 restrictions on travelers. Currenty, out-of-state visitors to the Aloha State must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Beginning August 1, there will be a choice: Show proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival or complete the 14-day quarantine.
Since June 6, Alaska has offered visitors a choice: self-quarantine or get tested for COVID-19. Travelers who are 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.