In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many U.S. states and localities, such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Louisiana, have adopted interstate travel restrictions to maintain lower levels of spread and contain the virus. Many of these travel restrictions take the form of mandatory 14-day quarantine requirements for people traveling to and from COVID-19 “hot spots” – states that have increasing cases or increasing positivity rates.
These rules are being enforced in unique ways. For example, some states have imposed further restrictions, like prohibiting hotels from accommodating residents of certain states where the virus is widespread. As a result, while an employee traveling from out of state to a client site to service equipment or respond to a client request or attend a meeting would be welcome at the client’s site, the employee might have difficulty finding accommodations.
Yet, despite the uncertainty as to where and under what circumstances Americans can travel domestically for work, critical personnel may still be required to travel to reach jobs that have been deemed essential. This update summarizes what employers need to know to get critical workers to and from these hot spot states.
Interstate Travel Restrictions: Summary
As of July 15, 2020, 14 states, as well as a number of individual cities, have domestic travel restrictions in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rules differ, however, depending on where the travelers are coming from and what mode of transportation they are taking.
For example, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have instituted 14-day quarantines on domestic travelers coming from certain states; residents from states that have new daily positive test rates higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or with 10% or higher positivity rates over a seven-day rolling average are directed to self-quarantine. As of today, there are 22 “hot spot” states that meet that criteria – but the situation is evolving.
|Alaska||Anyone who comes into the state must produce documentation of a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours to five days prior to their departure. Any traveler may choose to quarantine for 14 days rather than be tested.||Exceptions for essential travel, including for critical personnel needed to conduct critical infrastructure services. All Critical Infrastructure businesses with workers arriving to the state are required to develop and submit a Workforce Protective Plan.|
|Arizona||Directs travelers to avoid passing through Navajo Nation, which is experiencing a large outbreak.||N/A|
|Connecticut||Travelers from the following states must self‑quarantine for 14 days: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.||Workers traveling from impacted states who work in critical infrastructure as designated by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, including students in exempt health care professions, are exempted from the quarantine advisory when such travel is work-related. This includes any state, local and federal officials and employees traveling in their official capacities on government business.|
|Florida||All individuals entering the state of Florida from the New York Tri-State Area (Connecticut, New Jersey and New York) must isolate or quarantine for a period of 14 days.||The order does not apply to individuals involved in commercial activity and students traveling for the purpose of academic work, internships, sports training and any other activity or program approved by the educational institution.|
|Hawaii||People who travel to any of the islands must self‑quarantine for 14 days. Beginning August 1, 2020, out-of-state arrivals will be permitted to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result from a CLIA-certified laboratory in order to bypass quarantine requirements.||Essential employees can submit an exemption request by emailing email@example.com|
|Illinois (Chicago)||Travelers entering or returning to Chicago from states experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases must quarantine for a 14-day period.||Restrictions do not apply to essential workers.|
|Kansas||Travelers from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida or South Carolina must quarantine for 14 days.||Mandates do not apply to workers in critical infrastructure, including health care and public health, who are needed to continue operations during this pandemic.|
|Maine||Requires travelers from everywhere except New Hampshire and Vermont to either undergo a 14-day self-quarantine or present a recent negative COVID‑19 test.||Individuals engaging in essential services, as defined in Executive Order 19FY 19/20, are exempt.|
|Massachusetts||All travelers arriving to Massachusetts – including Massachusetts residents returning home – are instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days.||Travelers from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont are exempt and need not self-quarantine for 14 days. In addition, workers designated by the federal government as essential critical infrastructure workers are exempt from the directive to self-quarantine for 14 days if traveling for work purposes.|
|New Jersey||Travelers from the following states must self‑quarantine for 14 days: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.||The travel advisory does not apply to critical infrastructure workers, seasonal migrant farm workers, or individuals entering the state for business travel.|
|New Mexico||All out-of-state travelers are required to self‑quarantine for 14 days.||Exemptions to the travel quarantine include airline employees traveling for work, public safety employees, health care workers, emergency first responders, military personnel, employees of federal agencies or national defense contractors, those arriving in New Mexico pursuant to a court order and those traveling to New Mexico to conduct business activities.|
|New York||Travelers from the following states must self‑quarantine for 14 days: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.||Exceptions to the travel advisory are permitted for essential workers and are limited based on the duration of time in designated states, as well as the intended duration of time in New York.|
|Pennsylvania||Travelers from the following areas with “significant community spread” must self-quarantine for 14 days: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.||N/A|
|Rhode Island||Requires travelers from areas with “significant community spread” to self-quarantine for 14 days or produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test result from within 72 hours of their arrival; these areas include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.||Restrictions do not apply to public health, public safety or health care workers. Restrictions also do not apply to anyone traveling for medical treatment, to attend funeral or memorial services, to obtain necessities such as groceries, gas or medication, to drop off or pick up children from day care or summer camps or to anyone who must work on their boats.|
The Impact on Companies with Employees Crossing State Lines
The COVID-19 pandemic and the various measures implemented to fight it significantly disrupt how employers do business across the globe. As described above, with certain exceptions, employees will need to prepare to quarantine or produce a negative COVID-19 test result when traveling to and from certain states. Because certain employees may have business-related travel that cannot be postponed or conducted via electronic communication, employers should keep in mind that many states allow essential travel only. Traveling employees should contact hotels ahead of time to make sure that their reservations will be honored. They should also be prepared to present documentation explaining why they are permitted to travel in the state, with reference to the specific state guidelines.
Impact on Employees Returning from Hot Spot States
Employers should communicate interim changes to company policies or practices that may impact the employee’s ability to return to work, and how those policies might apply in the event that an employee is quarantined. In addition, employers must decide how and if they will monitor personal travel by employees. Employers should tell traveling employees before they leave that they may be required to stay away from work for 14 days on their return. Whether this quarantine period is paid will depend on whether work can be performed at home, whether the travel was business-related or personal, and the nature of the job classification, such as exempt or nonexempt. Employers should consider these issues in advance of any travel to restricted states.
Remote Work: Employer Considerations
Considering these various travel restrictions, many employees have lost the ability to work and travel in the usual way. To the extent possible, employers should continue to conduct meetings virtually and only permit business travel when unavoidable. The imposition of 14-day quarantine requirements may lead to more of the workforce either telecommuting or staying home as the virus spreads. Employers should consider which employees may be able to continue to work remotely to comply with quarantine requirements and allow those who need to be in the workplace to socially distance. Employers may consider requiring employees to travel with equipment that would allow the employee to work if he or she is quarantined due to additional travel restrictions being imposed.
Strategies to Address Employees Returning to Work
If business travel is necessary, employers should follow the advice of the CDC and applicable public health authorities regarding information needed to permit an employee’s return to the workplace after visiting any identified high-risk location or hot spot state. Employers should educate employees on the current risks of travel, which include being subject to travel restrictions when the employee returns from travel. Employers should also monitor employees returning from travel for signs of illness.
COVID-19-related travel restrictions have far-reaching consequences on businesses and the communities they serve. Employers must consider the practical implications of business travel to hot spot states and develop policies to address employees returning to work and their needs while traveling on business.
Over the next several months, COVID-19-related travel restrictions will continue to evolve and cause logistical complications for employers. Employers should continue to monitor new and existing travel restrictions and expect the development of additional hot spot states. Because the COVID‑19 pandemic is an evolving situation and highly dependent on state-specific considerations, Thompson Hine will continue to monitor ongoing developments.
Compliments of Thompson Hine – a member of the EACCNY,