Massachusetts removes Oregon from quarantine exemption list

Several other states on the lower-risk list also appear to be on the verge.

Commuter traffic is essentially nonexistent due to the virus outbreak as a few cars pass under a sign urging out of state visitors to quarantine for 14 days on the Zakim Bridge into Downtown Boston, Friday morning, April 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
A sign on the Zakim Bridge in Boston urges out-of-state travelers arriving in Massachusetts to self-quarantine for 14 days. –Charles Krupa / AP

The list of exemptions from the out-of-state travel rules in Massachusetts continues to shrink.

The state’s Department of Public Health announced Friday afternoon that it is putting Oregon back on the list of higher-risk states subject to its quarantine travel rules. That means most people coming or returning from Oregon will have to self-quarantine for 14 days or be able provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test administered within the previous 72 hours upon arriving in Massachusetts — or face a potential $500 fine.

The change, which takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, comes after COVID-19 case numbers in Oregon began to tick back up over the past two weeks, according to local reports.

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According to the coronavirus tracking data cited by DPH, Oregon no longer meets either of the criteria to be classified as a lower-risk state; as of Friday, the Beaver State had an average incidence rate of 6.8 infections per 100,000 residents and a positive test rate of 8 percent. DPH requires states to have both an average daily case of less than six per 100,000 residents and a positive test rate of less than 5 percent to be exempt from the travel rules.

As of Saturday, the list of exemptions from travel rules will be down to nine states, after Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wyoming were also removed from the list.

Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Vermont, and Washington remain lower-risk states.

However, some of those states also don’t meet the criteria, at least according to Friday’s data. Colorado reported a weekly average of 9.9 new daily cases per 100,000 residents with a positivity rate of 4.3 percent (DPH requires states to be under both thresholds).

“The Command Center reviews the data and other states’ recent trends weekly and updates the higher risk state list as needed based on the criteria of the travel order,” Tory Mazzola, a spokesperson for the state’s COVID-19 Response Command Center, told Boston.com in a statement Friday, when asked about the decision not to remove Colorado from the lower-risk list.

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New Mexico, which was added to the exempt list two weeks ago, also reported an average of 6.4 new cases per 100,000 residents amid climbing infection numbers. New Jersey similarly ticked up to 5.1 cases per 100,000 on Friday amid a slow upward trend in recent weeks, though the state is still below both thresholds.

Despite its low positive test rate, Rhode Island remains the sole New England state on the higher-risk state due to its relatively high incidence rate of 11.1 cases per 100,000 residents.

There are some separate exceptions for people traveling through Massachusetts on their way to another state, as well as other types of limited cross-border travel — particularly relevant for those living near the Rhode Island border —  such as regular commutes for work or school, medical treatment, and other “critical life activities” like grocery shopping, attending a religious service, or caring for a family member.

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