COVID-19 Surge and Travel Restrictions and Advisories are Upending Thanksgiving Plans Across the Country



Original Publication Date: August 20, 2020; Updated: September 16, 2020 and November 19, 2020

With more than 1 million cases reported in the United States over the last 7 days and cases rising, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) issued guidance on November 19, 2020 recommending Americans not travel for Thanksgiving and celebrate the holiday at home with the people they live with. Travel may increase the chances of contracting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect oneself and others this year.

In the United States, the long-feared second wave of COVID-19 infections and deaths has arrived with record setting new case counts every day. Hospitalizations, too, are rising higher than at any other time in the pandemic and consequences may be catastrophic. As people begin to hunker down in their homes and many quickly reverse course on planned holiday family gatherings, 10 states (Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont) the District of Columbia and the City of Chicago have mandatory quarantine and/or negative COVID-19 testing requirements for individuals traveling from states with high positivity rates. Other states including California, Washington and Oregon have, in recent days, issued travel advisories. While exceptions to the quarantine requirements vary, most states include exceptions for essential workers and essential travel, e.g., medical care, commuters, transitory travel, travel through hot zones for a limited duration (less than 24 hours), and shared parental custody. Finally, several states, particularly those in the Northeast, require travelers to complete a Certificate of Compliance to affirm compliance with the state’s travel requirements as a prerequisite for check-in at lodging establishments. Penalties for violating the travel requirements vary from mandatory quarantine or isolation to fines up to $10,000. While most states and localities have indicated that they will not actively enforce their quarantine requirements, some states, like New York, post enforcement teams at airports to meet arriving aircraft and request proof of completion of the State Department of Health traveler form. Additionally, in states requiring a certificate of compliance with out-of-state travel quarantine/testing requirements, travelers must present a completed certificate of compliance for each traveler in their parties to the lodging establishment as a prerequisite to check-in.

In addition to states imposing mandatory quarantine and/or COVID-19 negative tests, eight states (Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) have issued travel advisories recommending travelers from states with high positivity rates to quarantine for 14 days or obtain a COVID-19 negative test result within 72 hours of traveling to the state. While not mandatory, compliance with the travel advisories is expected.

Finally, many states are discouraging non-essential travel during the surge regardless of whether the destination is a high or low risk COVID-19 area. If individuals decide to travel, they recommend travelers comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) COVID-19 travel guidance.

International Travel Restrictions

Most countries have either closed their borders to foreign travelers or conditioned entrance into the country on the traveler’s citizenship, point of origin, meeting specific requirements, or obtaining special permission from the destination country’s embassy. It is recommended that all U.S. citizens planning to travel internationally check the U.S. Department of State website for current travel restrictions.

Additionally, the CDC issued travel recommendations by destination. Most countries are listed as Level 3 where the COVID-19 risk is high. The CDC recommends travelers avoid all non-essential travel to destinations with a high COVID-19 risk, and travelers with increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 consider postponing all travel, including essential travel, to high COVID-19 risk locations. Upon return from a high COVID-19 risk location, the CDC recommends: staying home as much as possible, avoiding being around people at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and getting tested for COVID-19 in addition to following state and local health recommendations or requirements.

As the travel orders and advisories are rapidly changing, before traveling out-of-state, check the state or city health department travel guidance for your visit and along your route. Additionally, check for updates as you travel.

States with Travel Restrictions/Quarantine Orders

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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