Chicago Updates Travel Order With Only 2 States Below Quarantine Threshold

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Chicago health officials updated the city's coronavirus travel order Tuesday, leaving only two states below the threshold requiring a quarantine upon arrival in the city.

As of Tuesday, 34 states were categorized as "red" states, meaning travelers must quarantine for 10 days when coming to Chicago.

That number is up from weeks past and now includes: California, Tennessee, Arizona, Oklahoma, Alabama, West Virginia, Delaware, Nevada, Indiana, Utah, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Mexico, North Carolina, Idaho, Kentucky, Florida, New Jersey, Kansas, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, South Dakota, Missouri, Virginia, Louisiana, Nebraska and Colorado.

Fifteen states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia were listed as "orange," meaning they require a quarantine or negative test prior to arrival in Chicago. That list now also includes: Connecticut, Wisconsin, Maryland, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, Washington and Oregon.

Only two states, Hawaii and Vermont, were listed as "yellow," meaning a quarantine is not required when entering or returning to the city - though health officials have long warned against any non-essential travel and continue to urge strict adherence to public health guidelines like wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding gatherings.

The emergency travel order requiring a quarantine for travelers from certain locations was 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 earlier this month, the latest 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.

Here's a look at the 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 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
  • Red: States have a higher rolling 7-day average of positive cases/day/100k residents than Chicago.
    • 10-day quarantine 

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. 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 last month. "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.

Chicago's travel order, which began on July 6, is now evaluated every other Tuesday, with any additions taking effect the following Friday.

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