COVID-19 Information for Travelers
Order of the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health for Mitigation Relating To Travel
Frequently Asked Questions
November 17, 2020; Page last updated December 17, 2020
By Order issued November 17, 2020, the Wolf administration is requiring that travelers entering Pennsylvania from other countries and states, as well as Pennsylvanians who are returning home from other countries or states, have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth or quarantine for 10 days upon entry into Pennsylvania. If a traveler chooses to get tested upon entering the Commonwealth, or is waiting for test results, the traveler must quarantine for 10 days, or until receipt of a negative test result, whichever comes first.
When does this Amended Order take effect?
The Secretary's First Amended Order for Travel Mitigation took effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, November 20, 2020. The additional amendments to that Order changing the time frame from a 14-day travel quarantine period to a 10-day quarantine period took effect immediately upon issuance of that amendment. The Order, as amended, will be in effect until further notice.
How does the new Quarantine guidance effect this Order?
The travel quarantine requirement has been updated to reflect the new CDC and DOH guidance. Please see the most recent Health Alert Network
(PAHAN-538) notification for more information. Any relevant successor HANs will be referenced in that document.
Is this a recommendation or requirement?
This is a requirement. The Order is an enforceable disease control measure authorized by the Disease Prevention and Control Law.
Why are testing or quarantine being required?
Testing provides a way for individuals to know their COVID-19 status, and to allow them to avoid bringing the virus with them into the Commonwealth. This is important especially as we consider visiting loved ones who may be more vulnerable to the devastating effects of the disease. Recognizing that an individual may not have their test results before travelling, quarantine is intended to serve that same purpose, to prevent the spread of the disease.
Do I have to quarantine after I travel out of state?
Completing a 10-day quarantine after traveling outside of Pennsylvania is required if an individual does not have proof of a negative test result. As case numbers increase nationwide, persons traveling to Pennsylvania or returning to Pennsylvania after travelling out of state risk bringing COVID-19 into the state and potentially infecting others. Individuals should stay in their quarantine location for the full 10 days and avoid physically interacting with others. If individuals do not want to quarantine, they can be tested in the 72 hours prior to entering Pennsylvania or upon entering Pennsylvania;.If they have a negative test result, they will not have to quarantine. If they are awaiting a test result, or choose not to obtain a test, they must quarantine until they receive a negative test result, or for the full 10-day period. Additionally, quarantine is not required for individuals who travel routinely for work or other critical purposes, such as medical appointments or to comply with a court order such as custody exchanges.
If I am under a mandatory quarantine, what am I allowed to do?
Individuals who are required to quarantine may temporarily leave in order to receive testing or other necessary medical services.
Does the Order apply to people traveling to Pennsylvania from another country or state as well as people who live in Pennsylvania returning from a trip from another country or state?
Yes, this requirement applies to both out-of-state visitors to Pennsylvania and to Pennsylvanians coming back from a trip to another country or state.
What does the Order require?
Anyone who visits Pennsylvania from another state, including Pennsylvanians returning to the Commonwealth, must get tested within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth. If an individual is unable to get a test prior to entering the Commonwealth, is waiting for test results, or chooses not to get a test, they must quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in our state or secure a negative test, whichever is first.
If I am awaiting my test result, am I permitted to still enter Pennsylvania?
Yes, you are still permitted to enter Pennsylvania if awaiting your test result. However, you are required to quarantine for 10 days.. If you receive a negative test result, you may resume your daily activities.
Does the Order distinguish between work-related travel and personal travel?
Yes. Travel between home and work or home and medical appointments in other states is permitted. The travel exemptions are:
- Individuals travelling to and from the Commonwealth for work;
- Individuals travelling to and from the Commonwealth for medical reasons (including providing comfort and support to a patient);
- Military personnel travelling to the Commonwealth by order or directive of a state or Federal military authority;
- Individuals in transit through the Commonwealth to another destination, provided that the time spent in the Commonwealth is only the amount of time necessary to complete the transit, make use of travel services, such as a highway rest stop, or make necessary travel connections.
Why are there not specific states anymore? Why must travel to or from any state result in a quarantine?
COVID-19 case counts in ALL states are now increasing significantly. This causes an increased risk of spreading COVID-19 when residents travel outside the state or visitors travel into the state. Because of this increased risk nationwide, a negative test result or quarantine for all travel from out of state is now required.
How should businesses implement these recommendations? Can employers require employees returning from other countries or states to stay out of work for the full travel quarantine period?
The Commonwealth does not dictate how businesses should implement the testing or quarantine requirement.
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, ride shares or taxis, and interacts with individuals in the other state.
There is an exception in the Order for individuals travelling through the Commonwealth in transit to another destination, provided that the time spent in the Commonwealth is only the amount of time necessary to complete the transit, make use of travel services, such as a highway rest stop, or make necessary travel connections. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises 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. While the Order does not require persons to test or quarantine if they are travelling through the state, or travelling into the state for purposes of making connections for additional travel, this does not mean a person should not consider obtaining a test or quarantining under these circumstances.
If I am going to a remote area and, after arrival, I do not leave the property, do I still have to have a negative test or quarantine upon my return to Pennsylvania?
Yes, because of the increased level of transmission nationwide, the risk involved in any travel is increasing, and individuals should have a negative test result or quarantine.
Is everyone required to be tested or quarantine, even if they are asymptomatic?
If an individual who intends to travel shows no symptoms, they are still required to obtain a negative test from a specimen collected within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth or upon entering the Commonwealth. If they do not have a test result prior to entering the Commonwealth, they are required to remain at their destination and apart from other persons, until they receive their test results. If the test result is negative, they may resume their daily activities. If the test result is positive for COVID-19, they must isolate, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.
How is this Order enforced?
The Order is enforceable as a disease control measure under the Disease Prevention and Control Law. The Administration continues to encourage compliance, and expects that, since all people are affected by this virus, everyone will do their utmost to comply. Persons who fail to comply with the Order may be fined between $25.00 and $300.00 dollars.
If a spouse or family member has returned from another state, must a non-traveling household member remain in a "travel" quarantine?
The Order applies to those persons who are travelling or have traveled. However, if the individual who is awaiting test results develops any signs or symptoms or has a positive test result, their close contacts, including household members, should quarantine.
I want to follow the travel quarantine requirement instead of getting the test, 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 the requirements in the Order.
My employer has required me to quarantine following travel, but I am unable to work from home. Am I entitled to sick leave while I am in travel quarantine?
Employees should work with their employers about leave and pay issues related to COVID-19 quarantine absences.
COVID Alert PA
COVID Alert PA is a free and voluntary mobile app developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health in partnership with NearForm, University of Pennsylvania, and MIT Lincoln Laboratory using Apple and Google's Exposure Notification System.
The app's features include an interactive COVID-19 symptom check-in, alerts for potential exposures to the virus, updates on the latest public health data about COVID-19 in PA and public health guidance for what to do if you have a potential exposure to COVID-19. The app is designed to ensure privacy of the user. It does not use GPS, location services or any movement or geographical information. It will never collect, transmit or store personal information. It is completely anonymous.
After you download COVID Alert PA to your smartphone, you can opt-in to receive alerts if you have had a potential exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
COVID Alert PA works in Pennsylvania, and when you travel to other locations in the United States including:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
States piloting an exposure notification app with a limited population include:
Getting timely alerts can help you get advice on how to help yourself and protect others as well as determine when to get testing. It can help reduce your risk of unknowingly spreading the virus to your friends, family, and larger community.
Download COVID Alert PA now
Questions? Call 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258)