Can You Travel from State to State During the Coronavirus Lockdowns?

April 22, 2020 Topic: economy Blog Brand: Coronavirus Tags: TravelHealthEconomyCoronavirusCOVID-19

Can You Travel from State to State During the Coronavirus Lockdowns?

That depends on the state you want to go to. 


Much of America, due to coronavirus concerns, is currently under stay-at-home orders, or other methods of social distancing meant to reduce the passage of the virus. Many jurisdictions have put rules in place asking citizens to only leave their homes in order to obtain groceries or other food.

But what about driving long distances? What are the rules for crossing state lines?


Four states in New England- Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont- have issued orders requiring all travelers arriving from out of state to quarantine for 14 days, unless they're traveling for "essential reasons," per National Law Review. The CDC has also specifically warned not to travel into or out of New York, Connecticut and New Hampshire.

Violation of those orders is a misdemeanor offense in most states, and while there have been few actual arrests for these types of violations, many of the ones that have happened have made the news. One was the early April arrest of three golfers from Massachusetts, where all golf courses have been closed, who crossed into Rhode Island to play a round. According to Golf Digest, the golfers were arrested in a McDonalds parking lot after a store employee noticed their car's Massachusetts plates and called police. The courses where they played had signage clearly stating that the course was for Rhode Island residents only.

Not every arrest of this kind is a matter of a quick border crossing. Per Hawaii News Now, four people have been arrested in Hawaii in recent days for violating that state's mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers, including a couple from California and a man and woman who were both staying in the same hotel. The latter woman drew the attention of police with Instagram posts.

 Other states have taken action to stop drivers in order to remind them of the restrictions. In addition, some parts of New Jersey have instituted restrictions on drivers coming from out of state, especially New York.

CNN has published a full list of state-by-state restrictions on travel.

State borders in the U.S. don't work like national borders, and don't typically include crossings that are manned by police or federal agents.

The CDC's travel guidelines page advises that when people travel, they should consider whether coronavirus is spreading in the area where they're going, and also to consider what they have planned after their travel, should a 14-day quarantine be necessary.

A blog post published by Just Security found a pair of Supreme Court decisions, from the early 20th century, which found that "states may act to protect their own citizens from pandemic harms," unless Congress says otherwise.

Another blog post by the law professor Eugene Volokh looked into the constitutional questions related to whether U.S. states can bar people from crossing state lines.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. 

Image: Reuters.