Rhode Islanders who head over the border to visit Massachusetts will have to quarantine for two weeks or produce a negative COVID-19 test within three days of arrival starting this Friday, the Mass. Department of Public Health announced Tuesday evening.
That followed an announcement earlier in the day that R.I. travelers will also have to quarantine while staying in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as some Northeast states begin to see signs of rising infections. There are 34 states and Puerto Rico on that regional travel advisory.
It’s a dramatic turn of events for Rhode Island, which was one of the first states to start banning out-of-staters back at the end of March, when Governor Gina Raimondo imposed a 14-day quarantine on New Yorkers. At the time, New York was a major coronavirus hotspot.
In fact, she ordered State Police and National Guardsmen to stop vehicles with New York license plates and swarm bus and train stations, highway rest stops, and even coastal neighborhoods with a lot of second homes, going door-to-door, looking for New Yorkers to tell them about the quarantine order.
That angered New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who called the actions “unconstitutional” and “reactionary” and threatened to sue Rhode Island. So Raimondo simply applied the quarantine order to all out-of staters.
But now, with cases gradually rising again in the Ocean State, the shoe is on the other foot. Here’s the situation in those four states:
Massachusetts: The public health department tweeted that Rhode Island was removed from its list of “lower-risk states” — for which the mandates do not apply — “due to increases in both RI’s positive test rate and cases per 100,000.”
Visitors from Rhode Island will also have to fill out a travel form. Failure to comply with the prerequisites could result in a $500 fine.
Without Rhode Island, there are now only seven states on the Massachusetts list that meet the criterion laid out by health officials: Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont.
Exemptions to the travel order are also allowed for people passing through Massachusetts, commuting across state lines for work, traveling to receive medical treatment, or complying with military orders.
Compliance with the order largely leans on the honor system, according to Governor Charlie Baker. Massachusetts has also seen an uptick in coronavirus cases in recent days, prompting Baker to say if the data continues to move in the wrong direction, he may have to slow the reopening.
Effective 8/7, Rhode Island has been removed from DPH’s lower risk state list for MA’s new travel order due to increases in both RI’s positive test rate and cases per 100,000.— Mass. Public Health (@MassDPH) August 4, 2020
Connecticut: Rhode Island is the first neighboring state added to Connecticut’s advisory. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said the restrictions do not apply to routine daily travel between the two states, and do not affect people who have to cross state lines to go to work.
“If somebody’s coming from Rhode Island to Connecticut and plans to spend more than a day, meaning they’re here for tourism or something, they’ve got to quarantine for 14 days,” Lamont said at an afternoon news briefing.
The quarantine applies to any person arriving from a state — or territory — with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a seven-day rolling average or an area with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.
New York: Cuomo announced Tuesday that Delaware and Washington, D.C., were dropped from the travel advisory. He said anyone traveling from states no longer on the advisory should still quarantine for 14 days.
"We cannot go back to the hell we experienced just a few months ago — and surging infection rates across the country threaten to bring us back there — so we must all remain vigilant,” Cuomo said in a statement.
New Jersey: Meanwhile, one of the three states behind the advisory, New Jersey, is showing signs of increased COVID-19 spread — though still not enough to exceed the metrics.
New Jersey has seen an average of around five new confirmed COVID-19 virus per 100,000 residents over the last week. That's up from a low of 2.5 on July 22, and down from a peak of 41.4 new cases per 100,000 on April 7.
New York reported a daily rate Monday of 1.05, with a seven-day average of 3.44 per 100,00. Connecticut's was 1.0, with a seven-day average of 2 per 100,000.
Cuomo has said New Jersey wouldn't be subject to the advisory because the two states are so closely intertwined.
Rhode Island’s infection rate was reported to be at about 10 per 100,000 for a seven-day average. The state health department put its daily average for Monday at 2.7 percent.
“Our numbers are close to that 10 new cases per 100,000,” said Rhode Island Department of Health spokesman Joseph Wendelken. “But we aren’t tracking who is coming into our state (for vacation) and then going back to Connecticut. So that will be up to Connecticut to enforce that quarantine requirement.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.