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Is Travel Within the U.S. Restricted Due to COVID-19?

Welcome to Texas Sign in Orange, TX, USA near the state border with Louisiana.
By Kellie Pantekoek, Esq. on April 06, 2020

Yes, there are travel restrictions in place for travel within the United States. However, the restrictions vary from state to state, and essential workers are usually exempt.

Currently, 93% of the world's population is living in countries with travel restrictions because of the coronavirus outbreak, according to Pew Research Center. Many countries have closed their borders completely.

U.S. borders are closed to people who are foreign nationals arriving from China and many European countries like Ireland, Sweden, and the U.K. There are also restrictions on traveling within the U.S., which have been imposed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Domestic Travel Adversaries and Restrictions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Domestic Travel Advisory asking residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to remain in their respective states for 14 days unless travel is essential. The advisory does not apply to workers in "critical infrastructure industries" like trucking, public health, financial services, and food supply.

Domestic travel restrictions are rare, and some people might wonder why interstate travel has been limited even though the coronavirus outbreak is already affecting all states. The CDC explained that the goal is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in crowded travel settings such as airports.

The federal government's authority to order quarantines and travel bans is mainly derived from the commerce clause of the U.S Constitution. Additionally, section 264 of the Public Health Service Act grants the feds authority "to take measures to prevent the entry and spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the United States and between states."

States Have Issued Their Own Travel Restrictions

States also have broad authority to use police powers such as ordering quarantines and travel bans to protect the health and welfare of their citizens, which is also granted by the Constitution. In addition to the advisory issued by the CDC, states have implemented their own restriction, as follows:

State: Travel restrictions: More information:
Alaska All travel between communities in the state is restricted unless it's necessary to support critical infrastructure or for critical person needs. Those who do travel for critical reasons are required to quarantine.
Delaware Those who enter Delaware from other states and plan to stay for an extended time (not just passing through) are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Florida Those who enter Florida from New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Connecticut are required to self-quarantine for 14 days or the duration of their stay, whichever is shorter. State law enforcement is stopping travelers at the Alabama and Georgia borders to check for potential COVID-19 cases.
Hawaii Travelers were asked to postpone their trips to the island for the next 30 days. Everyone arriving in the state is required to go into a 14-day self-quarantine. Inter-island travel also requires 14-day self-quarantine.
Kansas People entering the state from Colorado, Louisiana, Florida, Washington, California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois must self-quarantine when they arrive in Kansas.
Kentucky Kentucky residents are banned from leaving the state unless they must do so for job-required travel, necessities (for those living on a border), health care reasons, to care for a loved one, or court orders. Those returning to the state must self-quarantine for 14 days.
Maryland Access to the BWI Marshall Airport terminal is restricted and residents are urged to use transit for essential travel only.
Massachusetts  All travelers arriving to Massachusetts are required to self-quarantine for 14 days, except for designated essential workers. Visitors cannot travel to the state if they are displaying COVID-19 symptoms.
Nevada Everyone entering the state has been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, even if they are showing no symptoms of COVID-19. The order does not apply to essential workers.
North Dakota Anyone entering North Dakota from international locations and states with widespread coronavirus outbreaks are required to self-quarantine immediately for 14 days. The order does not apply to essential infrastructure workers.
Oklahoma People entering the state from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Louisiana and Washington must self-quarantine for 14 days.
Rhode Island All travelers entering the state are being  stopped at the border and told to quarantine for 14 days if they plan to stay in the state.
South Carolina People entering the state from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New Orleans must isolate themselves or self-quarantine for 14 days or the length of their stay. Certain workers — those employed by airlines, the military, health care, or emergency response — are excluded from the order.
Texas Those arriving into Texas from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, Washington, California, and the cities of Miami, Detroit, Chicago, and Atlanta must self-quarantine for 14 days.
Vermont Anyone entering Vermont from another state must self-quarantine for 14 days.
West Virginia Out-of-state citizens and those who have traveled abroad must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in West Virginia. State Police are monitoring the state roads and highways to enforce that order.

In addition to these state orders, some counties and local municipalities have imposed their own restrictions and protocols as well. The orders related to COVID-19 are continually changing and being updated. Check with the CDC and your local government to make sure you are up-to-date with the latest.

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