Chicago Changes Requirements for Travel Order as Nearly All of US Now on List

The city announced the changes Tuesday, categorizing states in a color-coded map to determine which requirements are in effect for travelers

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Chicago has changed the way it reports states being added to its travel order, now requiring a 14-day quarantine, or in some cases, a negative test result depending on a state's coronavirus outbreak.

The city announced the changes Tuesday, categorizing states in a color-coded map to determine which requirements are in effect for travelers.

In total, 44 states and territories are listed on the emergency travel order, either declared "orange" or "red" states. Only a small number are listed as "yellow," meaning they do not require a quarantine.

Here's a look at the new guidelines:

Yellow: States with a rolling 7-day average less than 15 cases/day/100k residents.

  • No quarantine or pre-arrival test required. Maintain strict masking, social distancing and avoidance of in-person gatherings

Orange: States have a rolling 7-day average between 15 cases/day/100k residents and the Chicago rolling 7-day average (currently 60) 

  • 14-day quarantine OR pre-arrival negative test no more than 72 hours before arrival in Chicago with strict masking, social distancing and avoidance of in-person gatherings

Red: States have a higher 7-day rolling average of positive cases/day/100k Chicago residents. 

  • 14-day quarantine

Based on current data, only six states are listed as "yellow" states, including New York, California, New Hampshire, Maine, Hawaii and Vermont.

Thirty-one others and Puerto Rico are declared "orange states," which require either a 14-day quarantine or a "pre-arrival negative test." That includes the newly-added Michigan, Connecticut, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, Oregon, Washington and Louisiana.

Another 12 states are listed as "red" states.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said no matter a state's color under the order, she would not recommend any unnecessary travel.

“First and foremost, I would like people to avoid travel at this time if at all possible," Arwady said in a statement. "But by creating a tiered system and using Chicago’s case rate as a category threshold, it allows us to be responsive to the changing dynamics of the pandemic. This measure is a response to increased rates of COVID-19 transmission in Chicago and across the nation, and it sets up measures to mitigate transmission in our city.”

With both Chicago's and Illinois' coronavirus cases soaring to to record levels not even seen during the pandemic's peak in the spring, questions have surfaced over whether the travel order, which requires a quarantine for travelers from certain states, remained effective.

Data last week showed Chicago alone was averaging 59.7 new cases each day for every 100,000 residents, nearly four times the limit the city has set for states to be added to its emergency order.

As of Tuesday, the city reported a positivity rate of 13%, with a seven-day average of more than 1,600 new daily cases "a higher rate than at any time during the pandemic," officials said.

The city said it hopes to simply educate travelers about the order, but those found in violation could be subject to fines of between $100 and $500 per day, up to $7,000.

"The quarantine and pre-arrival testing requirements apply to people even if they have no COVID-19 symptoms," the city's health department said in a release.

Exceptions can be made for travel for medical care, parental shared custody and business travel for essential workers. It also does not apply to an individual passing through states for less than 24 hours over the course of travel, including layovers at airport or people driving through a particular state. Daily commuters to and from neighboring states are also exempt.

Nov. 5, 2020: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new grant program to help the city's hospitality industry and encouraged residents to "be smart" this Thanksgiving, saying "this year has to be different."

Previously, states were added to the quarantine list if they had "a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average." If they fell below that threshold, they could be removed as well.

"Chicago cases are still growing without signs of slowing," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said, noting that cases have increased across age groups and in every Chicago zip code.

Chicago's travel order, which began on July 6, was being evaluated every Tuesday, with any additions taking effect the following Friday. The order was not updated last week, however, due to the election, officials said.

Health officials in both the city and across the state have been discouraging unnecessary travel as the pandemic enters a "second surge."

"Let's be clear, travel will increase your chances of contracting and spreading COVID-19," Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said.

Ezike said that travel might be necessary at times, but those who do travel, should take necessary precautions.

"Consider how you're going to travel or your mode of transportation," she said. "Obviously, when you fly, there are security lines as you go through the airport terminals. Think about a flight with layovers where it may be cheaper, but obviously that will pose more risks than a direct flight. Traveling by bus or train versus taking your own vehicle- obviously taking your own vehicle if that's an option would be safer. Traveling by bus or train, you might not be able to maintain 6 feet of distance and sometimes that will be for extended periods of time during the journey. If you are driving your own personal car, think about planning out how you will do the stops for gas for food for bathroom breaks, think about hand sanitizer and washing your hands frequently."

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