Can You Travel to See Family for the Holidays?
This post was updated on November 24, 2020.
Maybe your parents let Thanksgiving slide this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. But, you are coming home for Christmas, right?
Holiday travel is stressful in the best of years. But there is an added wrinkle in many states this year: the self-quarantine. To try and control the spread of COVID-19, which is again raging across a vast swath of the country, several states are setting up quarantine requirements for new arrivals.
We briefly touched on this issue in our recent blog post discussing Thanksgiving gatherings. But this post is about what extra plans you will have to make if you are determined to make your folks happy with a holiday visit. Check back for updates if circumstances change!
Which States Require a Quarantine for New Arrivals?
Currently, the following states have some form of travel restriction in place. Depending on the state you wish to visit, where you are coming from will affect whether you have to quarantine. These lists are frequently changing, so it's important to know before you go.
- Alaska: All out-of-state arrivals must submit a travel declaration plan and show either proof of a negative COVID-19 test or purchase a test on arrival and self-isolate until you get your results.
- Connecticut: All out-of-state arrivals must self-quarantine for 14 days if they are arriving from a state with a positive case rate of higher than 10/100,000 residents or a 10% test positivity average. The list of states that meet these criteria is high.
- Hawaii: All out-of-state arrivals must either produce a negative test taken within 72 hours of departure to Hawaii from a list of approved testing partners or self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
- Illinois: While the state currently has no restrictions, Chicago has imposed its own system, color-coding states by risk level.
- Kansas: Arrivals from South Dakota and North Dakota, or anyone who attended a gathering of more than 500 people where social distancing and mask usage was not enforced, must self-quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
- Maine: Arrivals from nearly every state in the country except some other Northeastern states must produce a negative test taken within the last 72 hours or quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
- Massachusetts: Visitors from any state except a small list must either produce a negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival or quarantine for 14 days.
- New Hampshire: Visitors from anywhere in the country other than New England must either quarantine for 14 days on arrival to New Hampshire or quarantine for 14 days leading up to your trip, as long as you do not use public transportation.
- New Jersey: Visitors from a long list of states will need to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Visitors from nearby states will likely not need to quarantine, but New Jersey discourages all non-essential domestic travel.
- New Mexico: Perhaps the most restrictive plan in the lower 48 states, New Mexico requires all visitors from a long list of states to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, including the requirement to "physically separate from others in a residence." New Mexico residents who visit a quarantining visitor must then also quarantine for 14 days.
- New York: Visitors from any state not bordering New York must either quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, produce proof of a negative test taken within the prior 72 hours, or take a negative test no earlier than day four of quarantine.
- Pennsylvania: All out-of-state visitors must present a negative test taken within the prior 72 hours of their arrival, otherwise they must quarantine for 14 days
- Puerto Rico: Visitors to the island territory must provide a negative test taken within 72 hours of their arrival, or they must either quarantine for 14 days or until they receive a negative test. Those who arrive with COVID-19 symptoms must submit to a rapid finger-prick blood test at the airport and quarantine even if that test returns a negative result.
- Rhode Island: Arrivals from any state with a positive test rate of at least 5% must quarantine for 14 days or provide proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours of arrival. You can also take a negative test after arrival to exit quarantine.
- Vermont: Visitors from an ever-changing (and shrinking) list of safe counties in Northeastern states can avoid quarantine if they come to Vermont in a personal vehicle. All others must quarantine for seven days, followed by a negative test, or quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
- Washington, D.C.: All visitors from a lengthy list of states must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Residents of Maryland and Virginia are exempt.
What Happens if You Violate an Order?
As we've written about previously, many attorneys and public health experts are skeptical about a state's ability to punish someone for violating a quarantine order. States do not have power under the Constitution to bar entries from other states.
The bigger question, though, is whether these orders are enough to stop you or make you rethink your travel plans this holiday season. If you violate a quarantine order and face penalties, it will likely ruin your trip there, even if you are ultimately able to avoid punishment. As with many public health matters in this pandemic, compliance is voluntary, but extraordinarily helpful.
- Learn More About COVID-19 and Your Legal Rights (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Can You Legally Celebrate Thanksgiving With Family This Year? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- What Are the Legal Consequences of Violating a Shelter-in-Place Order, Quarantine, or Curfew? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)