Some States To Out-Of-Towners: If You Come Visit, Plan To Quarantine For 2 Weeks The 14-day quarantine rule — which in some areas carries fines of up to $10,000 — is meant to help contain the spread of COVID-19, but enforcement varies from state to state.
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Some States To Out-Of-Towners: If You Come Visit, Plan To Quarantine For 2 Weeks

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Some States To Out-Of-Towners: If You Come Visit, Plan To Quarantine For 2 Weeks

Some States To Out-Of-Towners: If You Come Visit, Plan To Quarantine For 2 Weeks

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

If you're traveling this holiday weekend or if you have guests coming your way, there's a good chance you live in a state affected by a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Some public health officials say the measures are helping contain the spread of COVID-19. But the rules are a patchwork, and enforcement differs state by state. NPR's Brian Mann reports.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: As COVID-19 surged in recent weeks, Hawaii was a bright spot, often holding the daily number of new cases in the single digits. Governor Bob Ige (ph) pointed to one strategy.

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DAVID IGE: We instituted the mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travelers entering the state of Hawaii. It's been one of the most effective measures in helping us control the spread of COVID-19.

MANN: Hawaii is remote, which gives the state an advantage. But officials also enforce the travel quarantine aggressively. Clare Connors is state attorney general.

CLARE CONNORS: We have a $5,000 penalty. It's a misdemeanor, which means it's punishable by up to one year in prison.

MANN: Most people complied voluntarily, but Connors says police have jailed dozens of tourists and residents returning home.

CONNORS: Their neighbors report them, and we've had to arrest individuals for violating quarantine. The counties have also arrested individuals. Hawaii County arrested more than 20 individuals about a week and a half ago.

MANN: Similar quarantines are now being tried by states across the U.S., but most have different penalties and different rules about which travelers from which states are affected. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday people arriving from 16 states, including California and Texas, are now required to self-quarantine. State officials have begun using information from airlines and social media to track compliance.

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ANDREW CUOMO: We then do random checks off that database. They can ask you to Facebook, show the surroundings of the room that you're in to make sure it's a residence.

MANN: There are fines for violating the order, but Cuomo acknowledged enforcement is complicated.

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CUOMO: We are not going to be 100% effective. If you want to really come into the state, you can drive. You drive. You don't go through an airport. You don't go through anything.

MANN: Complicating this further, most enforcement falls to local police working with county health officials. Don Lehman is spokesman for Warren County, a tourist destination in New York's Adirondack Mountains, where 21 travelers are now quarantined. He says one challenge is just informing people which states are on the list.

DON LEHMAN: Delivering packets to all the hotels and motels that we can get to for people who arrive from these states to kind of let them know what's expected of them.

MANN: Polly Price, a professor of global health at Emory Law School, says these mandatory quarantines might help, especially if they convey a sense of urgency to travelers.

POLLY PRICE: It's messaging. State and local governments do not have the resources to go monitor everyone who might be under a quarantine order. They just don't do that. We've always relied on voluntary compliance and especially in a situation where we're talking about such large numbers of people.

MANN: Lawsuits have been filed over these quarantines with critics questioning whether travel restrictions and other public health orders violate civil liberties. Clare Connors, Hawaii's attorney general, says it's clear states do have the authority.

CONNORS: Under Supreme Court precedent, when we have a public health crisis, the decisions of state elected officials to exercise their police powers to keep people safe are appropriate restrictions on any constitutional rights, like the right to travel.

MANN: The Trump administration has declined to coordinate these quarantines or set national guidelines, which means travelers this holiday weekend will have to sort out on a state by state basis whether they're affected.

Brian Mann, NPR News.

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