Chicago Travel Order Could End ‘Soon,' Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Says

The travel order is slated for an update Tuesday and Lightfoot hinted that Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady would have more details during that announcement

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Chicago's emergency travel order could be going away "soon," the city's mayor said Monday.

When asked about the future of the order as coronavirus vaccinations continue to increase in the city and amid new masking guidance for vaccinated individuals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the order isn't going away just yet, "but soon."

"Obviously we're seeing progress being made across the country, but the primary purpose of the travel order is to equip members of the public with tools that they need," Lightfoot said. "We've already made a number of adjustments, both in terms of the states that are on versus off, but also making accommodations for people who are getting vaccinated... They don't have to go through the quarantine procedure that they previously had to without the vaccination, but I think that some form of the order is still necessary because it forms, I think it performs a very valuable function in educating the public."

The travel order is slated for an update Tuesday and Lightfoot hinted that Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady would have more details during that announcement.

Currently, 18 states, including nearby Indiana, are in an "orange tier" under the order, which requires a quarantine or pre-arrival negative test before coming to Chicago for those who are not fully vaccinated. The lesser yellow tier includes 31 states as well as the District of Columbia.

While health officials continue to urge residents to avoid travel if possible, the thresholds and the testing or quarantine requirements for each category are as follows:

  • 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 negative test no earlier than 72 hours before arrival in Chicago with strict masking, social distancing and avoidance of in-person gatherings
    • Be fully vaccinated, as defined as two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after one dose of a single-dose vaccine and not have symptoms

Arwady said last month that while more residents continue to get vaccinated, the travel order remains in place.

"We look at it every week and as more and more people are vaccinated, it applies to fewer people," she said. "I think what we're going to see is increasingly there will be less need for these kinds of municipal travel orders because we may see airlines, for example, requiring vaccination status, or potentially a pre-testing requirement to travel. I think there's going to be more and more incentives for people to be vaccinated who want to travel and it will increasingly be safer to travel, but we are still, you know, we are clearly in, you know, another optic here in terms of COVID in the U.S. I wish I could say we were past it, but we're just not at this point. So at the moment really encouraging people getting vaccinated is the safest way to protect yourself and then you can do a lot of these other things like travel with much less worry much less need for the testing or the quarantine or any of those pieces."

Those found in violation could be subject to fines of between $100 and $500 per day, up to $7,000, but so far the city said its goal has been to educate travelers rather than fine them.

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.

Currently, Chicago is in the "Bridge Phase," of its reopening plan, with hopes of entering a full reopening next month.

"We're headed in the right direction," the mayor said. "But everything about this pandemic has to have an asterisk of caution, because of the twists and turns, and as the governor and doctor said, we've got to get people vaccinated, so that we can get ahead of these variants."

And while the CDC has issued new mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people, masks are still required for travel.

Under the guidelines, you will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

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