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Guidance Guidance for Travelers arriving in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Date: 07/24/2020
Organization: Department of Public Health
Referenced Sources: COVID-19 Order No. 45

Updated: January 14, 2021

On July 24, 2020, the Governor issued COVID-19 Order No. 45 adopting a mandatory 10-day quarantine for travelers arriving in Massachusetts (hereinafter, the Order). The effective date of the Order is August 1, 2020. This binding guidance must be followed by all travelers entering Massachusetts, except those covered by the limited exemptions listed below. 

The Order applies both to residents of Massachusetts returning from out-of-State travel and to residents of other States and any other persons who come to Massachusetts for personal or business travel. Students and families entering Massachusetts to begin the academic year at a college, university, or boarding school, or any other educational or academic program, like any other person entering Massachusetts beginning August 1, must comply with the travel rule and are required to quarantine for 10 days on arrival unless otherwise exempted as detailed in this guidance.

Travelers who do not comply with these rules may be subject to a civil fine of $500 per day.

Table of Contents

Exemptions to the Quarantine Requirement

The following persons are not required to quarantine upon entering Massachusetts

1. Travelers Entering from lower-risk States:

Travelers from COVID-19 lower-risk States are not required to fill out the Massachusetts Travel Form and do not need to quarantine. The Department of Public Health metric for determining lower-risk states for the purposes of Massachusetts’ interstate travel policy considers data over two weeks before moving a state from lower risk to high risk. One week of data is the standard for moving states into the lower risk category. Additionally, the threshold of daily cases per 100,000 residents is 10 (which ensures that Massachusetts’ standard is in line with other states). States are included on the “lower-risk” list based on meeting two criteria: average daily cases per 100K below 10 AND positive test rate below 5%, both measured as a 7-day rolling average.  This list of lower-risk states is subject to change based on health data metrics.

You will be treated as “arriving from” a COVID-19 lower-risk State if you are coming to Massachusetts from one of the listed States and, aside from merely transitory travel, you have not been present in any State or jurisdiction not designated as a COVID-19 lower-risk State in the last 10 days.

2. Travelers Who Meet the 72-Hour COVID Test Rule:

Travelers are exempt from the quarantine requirement if they have received a negative result from a COVID-19 test based on a sample obtained not longer than 72 hours before their arrival in Massachusetts.  A traveler relying on the 72-hour test rule must be prepared to provide proof of the negative test result on request.

Individuals who receive a positive COVID-19 test result from an antigen test or an FDA EUA-approved molecular (PCR) SARS-CoV2 test are instructed to isolate in their home state.

Tests that are acceptable to satisfy the 72-hour test rule are limited to the following:

3. Limited Circumstance-Specific Exemptions:

People who travel into Massachusetts in any of the following circumstances are not required to quarantine for 10 days:

  • Transitory travel: This includes people who are passing through Massachusetts and permits travelers to drive through the State or to connect to their airplane, bus or train, or to stop at a highway rest stop, but this exception extends only so long as is reasonably required for the traveler to complete their transit, make any necessary airplane, bus, or train connection, or make use of travel services such as at a highway rest stop.
  • Persons Commuting for Work or School: People who regularly commute, at least weekly, outside of Massachusetts to a fixed place to attend school or work or any person who regularly commutes, at least weekly, into Massachusetts to a fixed place to attend school or work; provided that in either case, this exception applies only to and from the person’s residence and place of work or school.  Workers or students who travel to any place that is not their home state for personal or leisure reasons cannot rely on this exemption and must quarantine for 10 days upon return.
  • Patients Seeking or Receiving Medical Treatment Patients who are traveling to Massachusetts to seek or receive specialized medical care from a physician located in the Commonwealth and persons accompanying and providing needed support to the patient.
  • Military Personnel: Any person who is required to travel to Massachusetts at the order or directive of a Federal or State military authority.
  • Workers Providing Critical Infrastructure Services: Workers who enter Massachusetts to perform critical infrastructure functions as specified in Version 3.1 of the listing published by the Federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency are exempt from quarantine while they are commuting to or from or while at work.  For the first 10-days after arrival, when the worker is not at work or commuting to work they must quarantine. Additional information may be found here: Workers who travel to or from Massachusetts for personal or leisure reasons cannot rely on this exemption.  

Commissioner-Designated Exceptions

Pursuant to the authority provided in section 4 of COVID-19 Order No. 46, the Commissioner has designated the following, additional exceptions to the requirements of the Order after determining that quarantine is not advisable in these circumstances. 

A person who (a) enters Massachusetts in order to engage in any of the activities listed below; or (b) returns to Massachusetts after traveling to another place in order to engage in any of the activities shall not as a result be subject to quarantine and testing requirements and shall not be required to submit a Massachusetts Travel Form.  This exception shall apply, however, only to same-day travel to and from the location where the activity occurs and the time the person engages in the specified activity.

  1. Certain Critical Life Activities:  grocery shopping, visits to pharmacies, attending appointments with licensed health care providers, including medical, dental, or mental health, visiting persons receiving treatment in hospitals or residing in congregate care facilities, attendance at day care or children’s camps, attending religious services, and funerals or memorial services, or attending to the care needs of a family member.
  2. Required Appearances at Official Proceedings:  attendance at judicial hearings or other hearings or proceedings conducted by a government body or official that involve the determination of rights, obligations, or liabilities in which the person has an interest and where the government body or official has not made provision for remote attendance
  3. Compliance with Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements:  Children who travel into and out of Massachusetts because of transfers of custody or visitation between parents or guardians are exempt from the requirements of the order.  Parents and guardians may rely on the transitory travel exemption, provided they comply with its limitations.
  4. Persons Who Tested Positive within 90 Days of Arrival to Massachusetts and Successfully Completed Isolation: Individuals who are COVID-19-recovered, meaning individuals who tested positive more than 10 days but less than 90 days ago and who do not have symptoms, do not need to obtain a negative PCR test prior to traveling to or quarantine upon arrival to Massachusetts. COVID-19 recovered individuals arriving in Massachusetts must have documentation of the positive PCR test result available if asked. This exception does not include COVID-19-recovered individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19, who must follow all testing and quarantine guidance outlined in the travel rules.

Completing the Massachusetts Travel Form

Travelers or Massachusetts residents arriving from a lower-risk state do NOT need to fill out the Massachusetts Travel Form. 

Travelers who meet one of the limited circumstance-specific exemptions, detailed in the third part of the exemption list above, or the Commissioner’s Designated Exemptions do NOT need to fill out the Massachusetts Travel Form. 

All other Travelers or Massachusetts residents, including those who have taken a test within 72 hours, and those who arrive from any place other than a lower-risk State must complete and submit the online Massachusetts Travel Form, whether they are arriving in Massachusetts by airplane, bus, train, automobile, or any other means.

The form can be found here: Massachusetts Travel Form. A person who is required to but does not submit the Massachusetts Travel Form may be subject to a civil fine of $500 per day.

The form requires each traveler to provide limited information such as name, local Massachusetts address, phone number, expected length of stay in Massachusetts, and number of dependents accompanying the traveler. 

The form also requires a traveler to certify his or her understanding of the Massachusetts travel rule and document how he or she intends to comply with the quarantine requirements by selecting one of four options. Travelers must certify that one of the following is true:

  • I have received a negative test result for COVID-19 on a specimen taken no longer than 72 hours prior to my arrival, consistent with Massachusetts Department of Public Health Guidance
  • I plan to get a test at my cost and will remain in quarantine until I receive a negative result
  • I have taken a COVID-19 test and am awaiting my result and will remain in quarantine until I receive a negative result
  • I will quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Massachusetts or for the duration of my stay if fewer than 10 days.

All Travelers who are required to complete the Massachusetts Travel Form will also be required to certify the following: I do not currently have COVID-19 symptoms; have not had close contact with anyone in the last 10 days who is confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19; will wear a mask while in public, as required by Massachusetts law; and will maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others.

Requirements for Quarantine

Travelers who do not fall within the one of the three exemption categories detailed above: (1) coming from a lower-risk state, (2) meeting the 72-hour testing rule, or (3) meeting a limited circumstance-specific exemption or Commissioner’s Designated Exemption, must quarantine beginning immediately upon arrival in Massachusetts.  The quarantine must continue for a period of 10 days unless the traveler leaves the State sooner. 

The requirements for quarantining are as follows:

  • Travelers, along with their travel party, must separate from all other people for 10 days.
  • Travelers must not be in public or otherwise leave the identified quarters.
  • The living quarters must have a separate bathroom facility for each individual or family group. Access to a sink with soap, water, and paper towels is necessary. Cleaning supplies (e.g. household cleaning wipes, bleach) must be available in the bathroom.
  • Travelers must have a way to self-quarantine from other household members if a fever or other symptoms develop, in a separate room(s) with a door.  
  • During the quarantine period, no one else should be in the living quarters other than those in the Travel Party, including hotel staff or delivery persons, as applicable.
  • Food must be delivered to the living quarters.
  • Travelers must have a sufficient supply of face masks or face coverings to wear and must be compliant with Massachusetts’ masking order.
  • Travelers are not to leave their living quarters except to receive urgent medical care. 
  • Travelers should engage in proper hygiene including washing hands frequently using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol may be used.
  • Travelers should remain aware of potential COVID like symptoms including:  fever (temperature over 100.0 degrees); cough; difficulty breathing; shortness of breath; chills; muscle or body aches; runny nose or nasal congestion; new loss of taste or smell; headache; nausea; vomiting or diarrhea. Travelers with any of these symptoms should immediately contact a healthcare provider.
  • If no one in the Travel Party develops symptoms, then the travel party may continue with their normal activities after 10 days.

These requirements are in addition to Massachusetts requirements for wearing a mask or other face covering in both indoor and outdoor settings, any time you cannot socially distance and remain 6 feet from other people.

Obtaining a Post-arrival COVID-19 Test in Order to be Released from Quarantine

A traveler who is required to quarantine may be released from the obligation to continue quarantining upon obtaining proof of a negative test from an FDA EUA-approved molecular (PCR) SARS-CoV2 test, which was administered after the person’s arrival in Massachusetts. Travelers may temporarily break quarantine to receive testing.  Travelers must arrange for the test at their own expense and then are required to immediately continue quarantining until receiving a negative test result or the 10 days is complete. Guidance on how to obtain a test in Massachusetts can be found here.

Massachusetts Residents Traveling for Work

Massachusetts residents who are required to travel outside of the state to any State or foreign jurisdiction that is not identified as a COVID-19 lower-risk State are required, upon returning to Massachusetts, to quarantine for 10 days or until they are able to provide proof of a negative test result that meets the DPH standards. 

Employers that permit employer-paid or -reimbursed travel to places other than COVID-19 lower-risk states should take measures to ensure employees comply with this Order. Employers are also urged to strongly discourage their employees from taking leisure travel to destinations not included on the list of COVID-19 lower-risk States.  

Leaving Massachusetts Prior to Completion of Quarantine

A traveler may choose to leave Massachusetts before the completion of his or her 10-day quarantine.

Potential Other Traveler Scenarios

1. Does this apply to students arriving from other States or foreign countries to attend college or university or boarding school? 

Yes.  The travel rule applies to all persons entering Massachusetts from any point of origin.  A student who enters Massachusetts from any place not included on the list of COVID-19 lower-risk States must quarantine for 10 days if the student cannot provide proof of a negative test result that meets the standards of the 72-hour test rule or a positive test result on a test taken more than 10 days but less than 90 days ago .

2. Does the rule apply to parents, guardians and family members who are dropping their students off for boarding school or college/university?

Yes. If a parent/guardian/family member is entering Massachusetts only to drop off the student and then immediately leaves the campus and the state, then they would meet the exemption of transitory travel.  If they are staying overnight, then they are subject to the requirements of the travel Order. 

Parents, guardians, and family members who do not meet the transitory travel exemption and are coming into Massachusetts from any place other than a COVID-19 lower-risk State are required to either receive a negative test within 72 hours of coming into Massachusetts or a positive test result from more than 10 days but less than 90 days ago, or quarantine for 10 days.

3. Where can I report concerns I may have about non-compliance with the Order? 

Individuals should contact the Massachusetts Department of Public Health or the Local Board of Health. Contact information for Local Boards of Health can be found here.

4. If I develop symptoms but had a negative test what should I do?

The 72-hour test is a diagnostic test that is a point in time clinical measurement. If you develop symptoms, you should immediately self-isolate, contact a healthcare provider and be tested again

5. I received a call that I should go into quarantine because I was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. My test came back negative 3 days ago. Do I still need to quarantine?

Yes. If you were exposed to someone known to be COVID-19 positive, then you are at increased risk of becoming positive and will need to quarantine for 10 days in your home state.

6. I had an antigen test which was negative, do I need to be tested again? 

Yes, a negative antigen test must be confirmed by a negative result from an FDA EUA-approved molecular (PCR) SARS-CoV2 test on a sample obtained 72 hours or less prior to arrival in Massachusetts.

7. I previously tested positive for COVID-19.  Does the rule apply to me?

Individuals who are COVID-19-recovered, meaning individuals who tested positive more than 10 days but less than 90 days ago and who do not have symptoms, do not need to obtain a negative PCR test prior to traveling to or quarantine upon arrival to Massachusetts.  They must have documentation of the positive PCR test result available if asked. COVID-19-recovered individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19 must follow all testing and quarantine guidance outlined in the travel rules.

8.  Do I have to comply with the Travel Order if I have received a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. At this time, vaccinated individuals must continue to comply with the Governor’s Travel Order and related testing and quarantine requirements. While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, including quarantining after a possible exposure, covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others.

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