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Travel Recommendations Frequently Asked Questions

In a July 2, 2020 press release, the Wolf administration announced a recommendation for domestic travelers returning from certain states with high numbers of COVID-19 cases to quarantine for 14 days upon return to Pennsylvania. A list of states to which the quarantine recommendation apply can be found on the PA DOH Travelers Information website.

Why is quarantine being recommended?
Quarantine is a term used by medical professionals. A person is quarantined because that person might have been exposed to COVID-19 and needs to stay away from others in order to protect those persons. Quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms.

What does quarantine mean?
Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick. If someone is in quarantine, they may not become sick. Quarantines can also be voluntary, but in an emergency or disease outbreak, the Department of Health (DOH) has the authority to require someone to be quarantined if they come in contact with someone who has an infectious disease. People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.

Do I have to quarantine after I travel out of state?
Completing a 14-day quarantine after traveling to states with a high number of COVID-19 cases is recommended by the DOH. DOH will update the list of states with a high number of cases with frequency, so it should be consulted regularly by those traveling. Residents should stay in their quarantine location for the full 14 days and avoid interacting with anyone including those in their household.

Is this a recommendation or requirement?
At this time, quarantine related to travel is a recommendation, not a requirement. Quarantine is recommended because it is one of the most effective methods in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Quarantining helps keep you, your family, your friends, and your community safe.

Does this apply to health care, agriculture, professional sports, or other life-sustaining businesses?
 This recommendation applies to all people in Pennsylvania. Life-sustaining businesses, as defined by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), should carefully consider how this recommendation may impact their delivery of services. Healthcare workers should follow their healthcare facility’s policy and procedure, and healthcare facilities should inform their policy and procedure through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and PA-HAN-513 or its successor.

Does this recommendation apply to people traveling to Pennsylvania from another state as well as people who live in Pennsylvania returning from a trip to one of the listed states?
Yes, this recommendation applies to both out-of-state visitors to Pennsylvania and to Pennsylvanians coming back from a trip to a listed state. People who are planning on traveling to Pennsylvania or visiting Pennsylvania from one of the listed states are recommended to quarantine for 14 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Visitors should stay in their quarantine location for the full 14 days prior to interacting with anyone outside their travel group or household.

Does the Commonwealth distinguish between work-related travel and personal travel?
No. Travel to the listed states poses an increased risk whether traveling for business or pleasure.

Will the recommendation be extended to more states or will states be removed from the list?
Yes, it is expected that as states see increases in their case counts more states will be added to the list. Conversely, as states see decreases in their case counts, they will be removed as the risk lessens.

How should businesses implement these recommendations? Can employers require employees returning from listed states to stay out of work for 14 days?
The Commonwealth does not dictate how businesses should implement the quarantine recommendation. However, DOH recommends implementing businesses review the eligibility criteria in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and provide flexible leave and work from home policies to accommodate the recommendation.

I live in a county that borders another state that has high levels of COVID-19 infection. Should I avoid going to that state?
Although all 67 counties in Pennsylvania are in the green phase, it is safest to limit all non-life-sustaining related travel throughout the state and outside of the state as much as possible. Individuals who must commute to and from work should limit additional stops or interactions in states with high numbers of COVID-19 cases. Individuals should consider the level of risk involved in their travel. For example, traveling to one’s office where social distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene are practiced regularly is a less risky behavior than going to a restaurant or gathering that does not enforce mask wearing or social distancing.

What is considered travel to another state? What if I’m just passing through or stopping for fuel?
Travel to another state occurs any time a person crosses into another state via air travel, public transit, personal vehicle, or ride shares/taxis, and interacts with individuals in that state.

The CDC states that making stops along the way for gas, food, or bathroom breaks can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and surfaces.

When considering whether to quarantine after travel, a person should consider the types of behavior that occurred while traveling to or through one of the listed states. For example, traveling to one’s office where social distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene are practiced regularly is a less risky behavior than going to a restaurant or gathering that does not enforce mask wearing or social distancing.

If I am going to a remote area of a listed state and, after arrival, I do not leave the property, do I still have to quarantine upon my return to Pennsylvania?
When considering whether to quarantine after travel one should consider the types of behavior that occurred while traveling to or through a listed state. For example, attending a gathering is an activity that poses more risk than stopping for fuel. Also consider if other public health precautions were taken during travel, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing.

Is everyone recommended to quarantine if they are asymptomatic?
Yes, it is recommended that someone who has traveled to or is visiting from a listed state quarantine for 14 days.

Does this apply to schools and students?
Schools, including institutions of higher education, should create a policy and procedure on how to handle students who have traveled to or live in one of the listed states. This policy should be incorporated into the school’s health and safety plans.

Can I get tested instead of quarantining? If I test negative, do I still have to quarantine for 14 days?
 Individuals should consider getting tested four to seven days after they may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 or if they are exhibiting symptoms after they return from out of state travel. A test only shows an individual’s infection status at the time of the test. An infected person generally exhibits symptoms between 2 to 14 days after exposure; therefore, a person should quarantine for the entire 14 days even if they have had a negative test during this time.

Am I required to quarantine if I already had COVID 19 and have recovered?
Since COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus, it is unknown if a person can be re-infected with the virus, therefore, quarantine after returning from travel to one of the listed states is recommended.

If an employee reports to work with symptoms, can an employer require the person leave the worksite and get tested?
Employees who are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms should be sent home and should call their health care provider to arrange for a test.

Can an employer require an employee to get tested instead of quarantining ? If an employee tests negative, do they still have to quarantine for 14 days?
An employee exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 may be directed by their employer to leave the worksite and to stay home until they receive a negative test or to quarantine for 14 days before returning to the worksite. Individuals should consider getting tested four to seven days after they may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 or if they are exhibiting symptoms. A test only shows an individual’s infection status at one specific point in time. A person can become sick at any point from 2 to 14 days after exposure; therefore, a person should continue to quarantine for the entire 14 days even if they have had a negative test during this time. It is recommended that someone who has traveled to or is visiting from a state with a high number of COIVD-19 cases complete a 14-day quarantine.

How is this recommendation enforced?
As the administration issued a recommendation, voluntary compliance is the key to successful implementation. Using techniques such as wearing face masks, social distancing, and quarantining after travel to the listed states limits the spread of COVID-19 for the benefit of family, friends, and fellow Pennsylvanians. Therefore, it is in everyone's best interest that all Pennsylvanians comply with this recommendation.

If a spouse or family member has returned from one of the listed states, must a non-traveling household member quarantine?
The recommendation applies to those who have traveled to one of the listed states. However, if the individual who is under quarantine develops any signs or symptoms or has a positive test result, their close contacts, including household members, should also quarantine.

I want to follow the quarantine guidance, but my employer is requiring me to return to work. Do I have any recourse to stay home?
The Commonwealth does not dictate how businesses should implement these recommendations. Businesses may implement policies and procedures to address this recommendation and employees should work with their employers to address any concerns. An individual may also review the paid leave eligibility provided for in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Individuals should contact their employer prior to making any decisions related to their employment.

My employer has required me to quarantine, but I am unable to work from home. Am I entitled to sick leave while I am in quarantine?
Employees should work with their employers about leave and pay issues related to COVID quarantine absences. An individual may want to also review the paid leave eligibility provided for in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Individuals should contact their employer prior to making any decisions related to their employment.


Date updated: 7/10/2020