Chicago's emergency travel order was changed once again Tuesday as the city transitions to a two-tiered system "to prevent further spread of COVID-19," health officials announced.
Under the new guidelines, which take effect Friday, states are categorized as either "orange" or "yellow," eliminating a previous "red" category.
Orange states and territories have average coronavirus rates above 15 cases per day, per 100,000 residents and yellow states and territories have rates below 15 cases per day, per 100,000 residents.
"Chicago has experienced several weeks of mostly stable or declining new daily cases, and the test positivity rate has decreased and is now 10.3%," CDPH said in a release Tuesday. "The city is now seeing 38 new daily cases based on a 7-day rolling average, which is a lower rate than when the 3-tiered system was implemented in November 2020."
As of Tuesday, Hawaii is the only state listed as "yellow" and all 49 other states are in the orange category, as are Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, according to the city's health department. The list is next set to be updated on Jan. 26.
While health officials urged residents to avoid travel if possible, here are the requirements for each category:
- 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 above 15 cases/day/100k residents
- 10-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
The travel order was last updated on Dec. 29, when 34 states were categorized as "red" states, meaning travelers had to quarantine for 10 days when coming to Chicago.
The emergency travel order requiring a quarantine for travelers from certain locations was first issued in July in an effort to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
In November, the city changed the way it reports states being added to its travel order, categorizing states in a color-coded map to determine which requirements are in effect for travelers, from the original requirement of a 14-day quarantine to a negative test result depending on the severity of the state's outbreak.
Then in December, an update to the order followed changes in the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In order to be listed as a "red" state, the threshold was increased to 60 new cases per day per 100,000 residents, up from just 15 cases per day. It also changed the quarantine timeframe from 14 days to 10.
CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady has said previously that no matter a state's color under the order, she would not recommend any unnecessary travel.
"The bottom line, you should not be traveling," she said in November. "Right now COVID is surging across the entire United States and you risk bringing COVID with you."
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.