It’s been a rough few weeks for the U.S. as the coronavirus continues to ravage southern states, including Arizona, Texas, Florida, the Carolinas and others. Governors and local health officials are now scrambling to prepare for the upcoming holiday weekend. California just decided to shut down 19 counties across the state at the peak of the summer tourist season. Major American cities are also canceling their Fourth of July plans, including parades, gatherings at parks, and other outdoor events, to prevent future infections.
This is also one of the busiest travel days of the year. Millions are expected to cross state lines to visit their loved ones and celebrate the 4th after months of being cooped up at home. However, dozens of states are imposing mandatory 14-day quarantines for all out-of-state travelers, which could put your Fourth of July plans on ice. These rules may be hard to enforce, but it may be our best defense against further spread of the virus.
The U.S. already has a patchwork of hotspots, and out-of-state travel could level the playing field as cases rise across the country. Health experts say we are still recovering from Memorial Day weekend, which drew massive crowds at beaches, backyards, and pools.
How Hawaii Stays Virus-Free
With interstate travel about to heat up across the country, many state governors are looking to mandatory quarantines for tourists as a possible solution. New York just announced that travelers from 16 hotspot states must self-isolate for at least 14 days before going out in public.
The same is playing out across the country. Individuals coming into these states must stay in isolation for at least two weeks, such as in a hotel or with friends or family. If they are caught going to bars, hanging out in public, or attending parties and meetings, the consequences could be severe. Some states plan on charging hefty fees, while others are exploring other ways of holding the population accountable.
Many are looking to Hawaii for guidance. The state has virtually eradicated the virus over the last few months. Granted, living on an island has its advantages, but the state has gone to great lengths to enforce mandatory quarantines for all out-of-state travelers. If anyone is caught breaking the law, they will be subject to a $5,000 fine. Non-compliance is also seen as a possible misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison.
Neighbors have been ratting out tourists at Airbnb’s if they see them breaking the rules. Local businesses have also been checking IDs to make sure these individuals are not violating the law. Health officials have been sending information to hotels, so they can take action if one of their guests fails to follow the rules.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says enforcement in his state will be tricky. He wants people to follow the rules voluntarily, but he plans on using highway cameras to check out-of-state license plates, social media apps like Facebook, and airline manifestos to make sure people are following these guidelines. Violations are subject to fines up to $10,000.
What About Your Rights?
Can a state actually fine you, or throw you in jail, for violating these guidelines?
Yes. States have the authority to shut down or limit travel if it is a threat to public safety.
Some states are facing lawsuits for these orders, and others are outright refusing to comply. As Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors said, “Under Supreme Court precedent, when we have a public health crisis, the decisions of state-elected officials to exercise their police powers to keep people safe are appropriate restrictions on any constitutional rights, like the right to travel.”
However, many states do not have the resources to enforce these policies. That’s why they want people to follow the rules voluntarily. They are also relying on residents to help with enforcement. If someone sees a large gathering or a bunch of out-of-state license plates at the local bar, they should report it to the authorities.
Confusion on Top of Confusion
Keeping up with these guidelines will be a challenge for many this holiday weekend. These guidelines seem to change on a dime, as some counties and cities see a spike in cases. Travelers need to be aware of the rules in the state they plan on traveling to as well as their home state for when they return.
Taking a trip this year may mean being cooped up for another month if you have to self-isolate at your destination and upon returning home.
The CDC has issued guidelines for traveling inside the U.S., but the country needs a database of these restrictions, so travelers can keep up with the latest information and celebrate the holiday safely without worrying about ending up in jail or having to pay thousands of dollars in fees.
If you’re thinking about traveling this Fourth of July or know someone who is, be aware of the risks and make sure you’re following the rules. Several private travel companies have released a list of state travel restrictions, but it’s best to check your state’s website for the latest information.
Stay safe this weekend and help your patients celebrate responsibly.