Starting Saturday, people from some designated other states who come into Massachusetts and fail to quarantine for two weeks could face a $500-per-day fine, as part of an order announced by Governor Charlie Baker late last month.
The order, intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19, begins as the state reports an increasing rate of new infections. There have been signs recently that some people are gathering for parties and other large gatherings without taking precautions against the virus.
The travel rules, which were announced July 24, apply to people many people from out of state and Massachusetts residents returning from trips beyond the state’s borders.
It comes as the death toll due to the coronavirus grew by 17 Saturday, the state reported, bringing the total confirmed dead in Massachusetts to 8,406. Confirmed cases of the disease also grew by 290, and reached a total of 110,077.
But on its first day, Baker’s new order met with concern from some travelers at Logan International Airport.
Katherine Scherer flew in Saturday from San Francisco, and she came prepared with documentation showing she had tested negative for COVID-19.
But Scherer, who is 17 and is visiting the Boston area on vacation, was somewhat frustrated when she arrived at Logan and no one asked to see her paperwork.
“I got the document as the government said on its website, but no one asked me for it here,” she said as she sat in the Terminal C baggage claim area. “It seems kind of pointless.”
Ambar Sabino, 26, was prepared to quarantine for two weeks when she arrived in Boston from Los Angeles on Saturday to visit family. But to her relief, her COVID test result came in on her phone mid-flight, and it was negative.
No one on the flight, or in the airport, asked for her document, Sabino said.
“How do they know if I’m complying?” she asked.
According to the Massachusetts website, travelers coming from states considered “lower-risk” are exempt from the requirement. People who can document a negative COVID-19 test within the past three days are also exempt.
Those states considered lower risk include the remaining five New England states, along with New Jersey, New York, and Hawaii, according to the state.
Those traveling into Massachusetts from other states must complete a Massachusetts Travel Form available on the state website. Anyone who is over the age of 18 and any unaccompanied minors must have a form filled out.
Failure to complete the form or comply with the quarantine requirement if applicable may result in being fined $500 per day, according to the state.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation and Massachusetts Port Authority launched a campaign to notify travelers about the order when it was announced July 24, Stephanie Pollack, the state’s transportation secretary, said at the time.
That campaign includes signs, electronic messages, and announcements at Logan International Airport, plus train stations, and bus terminals. Airlines and bus companies were asked to notify travelers, and signage was also placed along highways and at rest stops, she said.
The order exempts people from quarantining if they are simply passing through Massachusetts or traveling to connect to an airplane, bus, or train, or pause at a highway rest stop. People coming into the state for medical care, military members, and workers providing critical infrastructure services, are also not required to quarantine, according to the state.
Another group exempted from quarantine are people who regularly commute to a fixed place in Massachusetts to attend school or work, according to the state. It also applies to those who regularly commute out of Massachusetts to a specific place.
Enforcement of the order will rely on the honor system — Baker has said he expects the vast majority of people will adhere to the order.
That was the case with Maria and David, who declined to give their last names, as they traveled home to the Cape with their 10-month-old son after spending time in Boca Raton, Fla.
Speaking at Logan Airport, Maria, 20, said they’re aware of the new restrictions and they plan to quarantine once they reach home to avoid any possible fine.
“We’re used to being in quarantine at this point,” she said.
And Besi Shehu, 30, who was arriving late Saturday afternoon from Chicago where she had spent the weekend with her 15-month-old daughter, said she was not even aware of the recently implemented restrictions.
She said she didn’t know about registering with the state or the possibility of a $500 fine for failing to follow restrictions. Nor did anyone mention this on her flight, she said.
“I didn’t know, but I’ll quarantine for a couple weeks,” she said. “I just try to be cautious.”
In recent weeks, clusters of new cases have been connected to large gatherings, including people who attended a football camp in Weymouth, events in Chatham, Chelmsford, and Wrentham, as well as a prom party that attracted 90 in Cohasset. State public health officials are also investigating a cluster of new cases resulting from a party held on a private boat, Baker has said.
If the state’s numbers get worse, Baker has said he would have to consider reducing the size of indoor gatherings, which are currently capped at 25 people.
“Things are definitely different because of the virus, but there’s a responsible way to gather,” Baker said during a Friday press conference. “People need to do their part to protect their friends, their families, their neighbors, and their communities.”