Crossing State Lines: Interstate Travel in New England During the COVID-19 Pandemic - Updated February 17
Last updated February 17, 2021
Please note that location-based exemptions change often and without notice, so please be sure to check the listing for the states you plan to include in your travels. Some states are aggressively enforcing travel restrictions, and it is important to check both state and local requirements of your departure point and destination, as well as states you may be transiting, prior to travel.
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, states have instituted requirements or other guidance for travelers from out of state. A summary for each state in New England is outlined below. Our state-by-state overview of business and social restrictions more generally throughout New England is available here.
Both the federal government and the states have the authority to impose quarantines and travel restrictions to protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents. While the authorities vary from state to state, violating such orders is generally a misdemeanor criminal offense. We note that the Department of Homeland Security has announced another extension of its limitation on travel between Canada and the U.S. at ports of entry along the U.S.-Canada border, permitting only essential travel through February 21, 2021. Similarly, Canada continues to restrict entry into Canada from the U.S. to essential travel and immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents.
The CDC’s guidance on what to consider before traveling within the United States during the pandemic includes the following: whether you are traveling to a hotspot, whether where you live or your destination requires quarantine after traveling, and determining whether you live with someone who is vulnerable. We note that effective January 26, the CDC now requires a negative COVID test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 for all air passengers arriving to the U.S . from a foreign country. Additional information is available here.
Following the White House executive order regarding mask-wearing during transit, effective February 1, the CDC also now requires all passengers and operators to wear face coverings while using all methods of public transportation, with limited exemptions. The order requires masks while waiting, boarding, and traveling on planes, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and other public modes of transportation, and requires operators to use best efforts to ensure compliance with the order, including denial of service or requiring the passenger to disembark at the earliest safe opportunity if they fail to comply. The order also permits carriers and operators to impose additional requirements for greater public health protection. While the order includes the possibility of criminal penalties, the CDC aims to rely on voluntary compliance, with civil penalties more likely for noncompliance. However, state and local authorities may enforce the measures in addition to federal authorities.
On December 18, Governor Ned Lamont issued Order 9S, amending certain sections of prior travel-related executive orders. Under the order, implemented by the state’s public health travel advisory, “affected states” subject to the travel restrictions is now defined as any state other than New York, New Jersey, or Rhode Island. “Affected Country” continues to cover all international travelers. All such travelers must self-quarantine for a 10-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state or country.
Alternatively, travelers are exempt from the 10-day quarantine requirement if they provide written proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours prior to arriving in Connecticut. If the test result is still pending upon entry to the state, the traveler must quarantine until the negative result is obtained. Travelers from affected locations who have received the COVID-19 vaccination are still subject to the quarantine requirement unless otherwise exempt.
The travel restrictions continue to apply to all travelers, including residents returning to Connecticut from an impacted state, and business and pleasure travelers. However, it does not apply to travelers coming into the state following only a layover or pass-through of less than 24 hours in an impacted state or country, and does not apply to those who travel to Connecticut for less than 24 hours. The order also exempts essential workers provided the travel was work-related (both those who work in the state and those who live here but work in an affected state), although additional protocols for essential workers may be issued. Persons who are COVID-19-recovered (those who tested positive for COVID-19 more than 10 days but less than 90 days ago and who do not have symptoms) are also exempt, but must have documentation of the positive test.
All travelers into the state, even those not required to quarantine or test, must complete a Travel Health Form prior to or upon arrival in the state. Failure to self-quarantine or complete the Travel Health Form may result in a civil penalty of $500 for each violation.
Unless one of the following exemptions applies, all travelers to Maine, including returning residents, must quarantine for 10 days. The Keep Maine Healthy plan exempts travelers from the 10-day quarantine requirement if they obtain a negative COVID-19 test result from a specimen taken no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival in Maine. Visitors are encouraged to get tested and receive their test results in their home state before traveling to Maine. Any individual who chooses to be tested upon arrival in Maine must quarantine while awaiting the results. A list of test sites is available here.
Travelers from New Hampshire and Vermont are currently exempt from the quarantine and testing requirements. Notably, Maine residents who visit an exempted state are not required to quarantine upon returning to Maine. Essential workers are also exempt from testing and quarantine requirements if they are traveling to Maine to perform essential work, or are from Maine and are traveling out of state for essential work and returning home.
Travelers who are not residents of Maine or exempted states will be asked to sign a Certificate of Compliance or use the Pledge to Protect ME online tool to demonstrate compliance with the travel and quarantine requirements. This compliance form must be provided to check in at all Maine lodging, campgrounds, seasonal rentals, overnight camps, and other commercial lodging, such as Airbnb. Visitors may be asked to furnish proof of the negative test result upon request. Our detailed discussion of these requirements is available here.
Enforcement of the state’s travel restrictions is pursuant to 37-B M.R.S. §786(1), which permits violators to be charged with a Class E crime that includes punishment of up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and the payment of civil damages to the state for its costs associated with testing, investigating, contact tracing, and otherwise determining the extent of COVID-19 transmission.
Order 45 requires all out-of-state (and international) travelers entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, to quarantine for 10 days or produce a negative COVID-19 result from a test administered within 72 hours prior to arrival in the Commonwealth. If results from a test taken within 72 hours of arrival are not obtained by the time of arrival, the traveler must quarantine until the negative result is received. If traveling for less than 72 hours, the test cannot have been administered prior to leaving the state, and must be administered upon return. If traveling with children under 10 years of age, the child does not need a COVID-19 test. Persons who are COVID-19-recovered (those who tested positive for COVID-19 more than 10 days but less than 90 days ago and who do not have symptoms) are also exempt, but must have documentation of the positive test. All entrants not meeting one of the exemptions are also required to complete a Travel Form. Additional guidance is available here.
Travelers from “low risk” states are exempt from these requirements. A state is considered low risk if it has an average of fewer than 10 daily cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate below 5%, both measured as a seven-day rolling average. As of this update, Hawaii is the only exempt state. Also exempt are regular (at least weekly) commuters, patients seeking or receiving medical treatment, military personnel, and workers providing critical infrastructure services. Persons traveling for critical life activities, including visiting those receiving medical treatment, attending court hearings or religious or funeral services, or otherwise caring for the needs of a family member are also exempt.
Failure to comply with this order may result in a $500 fine per day.
Order 72 requires all travelers entering New Hampshire to adhere to the travel-related provisions in the Universal Guidelines. Guidance from NH Public Health Services clarifies that anyone entering the state, including returning residents, must self-quarantine for 10 days following the last date of any high-risk travel. High risk travel includes any travel internationally (including to/from Canada); on a cruise ship or domestic travel outside of New England (Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Rhode Island) for non-essential purposes.
Essential travel includes travel for work, school, personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, for medication, and for food or beverage (brief trips for takeout and groceries only). Essential travel also includes travel for students and their parents or guardians who are visiting institutions of higher learning or preparatory high schools as potential future students, including allowing the students to remain at the school for overnight stays.
Travelers are permitted to quarantine for the 10 days prior to their travel to New Hampshire as long as their travel to New Hampshire is via personal vehicle; otherwise, the quarantine must be in state. A traveler may end the quarantine by receiving a negative COVID-19 test after seven days of quarantine, provided the person is also asymptomatic. This “test-out” exemption does not apply to persons quarantining due to close contact exposure to a person with COVID-19. Also exempt are persons who are 14 days beyond the second dose of their COVID-19 vaccine or those who have recovered from a positive COVID-19 test within the past 90 days. Additional guidance is available here.
Under prior executive orders, the penalties for violating emergency rules and regulations related to the coronavirus in New Hampshire are generally $1,000 for each violation or each day a violation continues.
Order 9, effective January 19, revises the quarantine duration to 10 days for international travel into Rhode Island, and for domestic cross-border travel for non-work-related purpose from states with high community spread, states with a COVID-19 positivity rate over 5%, as well as its travel protocol as coordinated with Connecticut. As of this update, states considered hotspots include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia, among others. International travelers are recommended to take their COVID test on day five of quarantine or later; a negative result shortens the required quarantine to seven days.
However, travelers from hotspots, as an alternative to quarantine, may provide proof of a negative test for COVID-19 taken within 72 hours prior to arrival in Rhode Island. Visitors must quarantine while waiting for test results, and may only end the quarantine if a negative result is obtained. Upon arrival, visitors subject to these requirements must complete a certificate of compliance and an out-of-state travel screening form. Travelers who have tested positive for COVID within the past 90 days and have completed their isolation periods do not require a negative test or quarantine prior to entering unless symptomatic.
These self-quarantine and testing requirements do not apply to those traveling for work, to public health, public safety or healthcare workers, people traveling for medical treatment, court hearings, to attend funeral or memorial services, to obtain necessities such as groceries, gas, or medication, to drop off or pick up children from care, or to anyone who must work on their boats. Quarantine guidance for those in close contact with someone with COVID-19 is available here.
Vermont has a mandatory quarantine for anyone returning or traveling to Vermont. Residents returning to the state must complete either 14-day quarantine or a seven-day quarantine followed by a negative COVID-19 test. All students returning home from a college or university, in-state or out-of-state, must either (1) quarantine at home for 14 days, with a test for COVID-19 strongly encouraged, or (2) quarantine for a minimum of seven days followed by a negative COVID-19 test. Guidance for organized sports specifically notes that any athlete or team that leaves the state for practice, scrimmage, or competition must complete a quarantine before returning to work, school, or attending public events.
Non-resident travelers entering Vermont in a personal vehicle must complete either (1) a 14-day quarantine or (2) a seven-day quarantine followed by a negative test in their home state and enter Vermont without further quarantine restrictions. Travelers arriving to Vermont who have not completed a pre-arrival quarantine (i.e. those traveling via public transportation or from further than a direct car ride) may complete either (1) a 14-day quarantine or (2) a seven-day quarantine followed by a negative test in a Vermont lodging establishment or with friends and family, although travelers must stay in their quarantine location for the duration of quarantine other than to travel to and from a test site. Guidance for lodging operators, including guest compliance with the travel requirements, is available here. Note that as part of Vermont’s suspension on social gatherings between households, travelers may not gather with another household in the state even after completing a quarantine.
All previous exemptions to quarantine requirements still apply, including those for people traveling for essential purposes. Essential travel includes travel for personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, for food, beverage or medicine, to perform work for businesses that are currently allowed to operate, or to attend pre K-12 school and college if commuting daily. However, the current state of emergency requires employers to use remote work and telework whenever possible, and cautions businesses and employees to only travel for work-related trips when absolutely necessary. Individuals engaged in a daily commute to and from their place of employment are also exempt from quarantine requirement.