Massachusetts removes 4 more states from list of exemptions from COVID-19 travel rules

The list of exemptions is getting quite short.

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

Massachusetts is removing four more states from the list of exemptions from its out-of-state travel rules, following increases in their respective COVID-19 rates.

Department of Public Health officials announced Friday evening that Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Washington state no longer meet the criteria to be classified as “lower-risk” states and will again be subject to the rules for out-of-state travelers, beginning at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

That means people traveling or returning from those states are required to quarantine for 14 days or be able to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test from within the previous 72 hours upon visiting Massachusetts.

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Those who don’t comply could face a fine of $500 a day. There are some exceptions for transitory travel and other limited types of essential cross-border trips, mostly relevant for those living near the border with Rhode Island, which remains a higher-risk state.

The removal of Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Washington from the lower-risk list — which included as many as 13 states earlier in September — leaves just five states exempt from the rules: Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. It’s the fewest number of states exempted from the quarantine rules since Gov. Charlier Baker’s administration made violations a fineable offense in July; at the time, all of New England, New York, and New Jersey were exempt.

DPH officials also announced Friday that Washington, D.C., will be added to the list Saturday, following a decrease in COVID-19 levels in the nation’s capitol (despite the district’s most famous resident testing positive for the disease this week).

Map of lower-risk states —Mass.gov

According to DPH officials, states must meet two criteria to be classified as “lower risk” and therefore be exempted from the quarantine rules: an average incidence rate of fewer than six daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents and a positive test rate of less than 5 percent.

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Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Oregon have also been removed from the list over the course of the past three weeks.

Massachusetts does not meet its own criteria to be classified as a lower-risk state, according to the most recent data on the COVID-19 tracking website cited by DPH officials. As of Friday, the state’s weekly COVID-19 incidence rate was eight daily cases per 100,000 residents.


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