Traveling outside Illinois? Chicago residents must quarantine after visiting 22 states. Here’s what you need to know to avoid a large fine.

Vacations, rarely cheap, soon could get a whole lot more expensive for rule-bucking Chicago residents.

According to an order from Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the city’s Health Department, those who travel to any of the 22 states deemed a COVID-19 risk must implement a mandatory two-week quarantine upon their return or face hefty fines. The original order, which named 15 states where COVID-19 cases were spiking, was announced right before the long Fourth of July holiday weekend, catching off-guard many Chicagoans who already made plans to travel out of state.

Lightfoot’s administration Tuesday added Wisconsin, as well as three other states, to the list of 22 states considered risky enough to warrant self-quarantine because they had an average of more than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population over a rolling seven-day period. Any state that in the previous week had an infection rate greater than that will be added to the evolving list each Tuesday and the emergency travel order goes into effect the newly-added states the following Friday.

This week, that includes Wisconsin, Missouri, North Dakota and Nebraska. Anyone who spends more than 24 hours in those states should stay inside for two weeks upon their return or risk a fine of $100 to $500 per day.

Yet despite the list’s growing size, enforcement of the order so far has been nonexistent, save for some billboards and signs that Lightfoot said were intended to “educate” people to comply.

In a call with reporters Tuesday morning, Dr. Allison Arwady, the city health commissioner said the city intends to give the order some teeth to back up what had been idle enforcement threats. Though resources dedicated to identifying violators are limited, the city now is looking to set a precedent by levying hefty fines against travelers who willfully defied compliance with the self-quarantine order.

The daily fines can add up to $7,000 if there are enough examples of a person venturing out in public when they should be staying indoors, according to the statute. If city contact tracers get information that people who’ve caught the virus were in proximity to someone from a quarantine state and flouted the rules, they’ll issue a citation, Arwady said.

They’ll also be on the lookout for people who are on social media “flagrantly posting their social activities, clearly out and about in Chicago after being in settings that are subject to our quarantine order, within the time frame,” she said. Investigators will look into any reports about city workers not following the guidelines, the health commissioner said.

The order has plenty of exceptions for different types of workers and depending on how long travelers spend in the listed states.

If someone drives through a state on the list, but does not stay there more than 24 hours, they do not need to quarantine.

For example, Chicagoans who drive through Iowa (a listed state) to spend a week in Minnesota (not listed) but who did not stay in Iowa more than 24 hours, do not need to quarantine. There are similar restrictions for air travelers.

Travelers visiting Chicago from listed states also are subject to the order if they are staying longer than a day. Everyone older than age 2 who lands at a Chicago airport is required to wear a mask, then quarantine if they’ve come from a listed state.

If someone is staying with a Chicago resident after traveling to an affected state, the traveler must quarantine but other people in the home who did not travel to a listed state are not required to quarantine, but should follow guidance for being around someone who has potentially been exposed.

Travelers or area residents who leave the airport and immediately travel to a suburb or outside Chicago limits are not required to quarantine — unless their municipality also has a travel restriction in place. The order states elsewhere that face coverings should be worn and that public transportation should not be used by those headed outside city limits.

For those who live outside Chicago but who work in the city, it’s important to determine whether you’re an essential or nonessential worker according to the executive order.

There are limited exceptions to the quarantine order for essential workers who had to travel for work. Travelers who don’t live in Chicago but who have to be in Chicago to work and who traveled to a listed state for work do not need to quarantine. Travelers who live in Chicago and who travel to a listed state for work do not have to quarantine, according to the order.

But if workers go to a listed state when they didn’t have to, or for medical care, or because of parental shared custody, they would be subject to quarantine.

People who work in Chicago and live elsewhere can do so if they haven’t traveled to a high incidence state. If they have traveled to a high incidence state, they are subject to requirements regarding essential workers who are Chicago residents.

For the purposes of the order, an “essential worker” is a person who works in any one of the 16 critical employment sectors. The term also includes any government workers traveling in their official capacities. Essential workers must:

According to the emergency travel order, quarantine means staying at one place for 14 days before doing any activities outside of the home. Included in the restrictions:

Travelers still must quarantine even if they had a negative COVID-19 test because people “can develop symptoms and become contagious up to 14 days from their last exposure.”

Generally, the emergency order is applied uniformly to any state on the list. However, with neighboring states such as Wisconsin, Missouri, and Iowa on the list, travelers should pay close attention to what constitutes a visit and distinctions between essential and nonessential workers.

The following is a rolling list of states deemed high-risk for COVID-19, the date the determination was made and the rate of infection per 100,000 residents. With the exception of Wisconsin, travel through the states is permitted so long as visit lasts less than a day. Essential workers are exempt from quarantining in Chicago if travel to the states was compulsory for their essential function.

The order applies to individuals coming from Wisconsin to Chicago for nonwork purposes and Chicago residents returning from Wisconsin, unless they are deemed an essential worker.

Exceptions to the order for personal travel are permitted for travel for medical care and parental shared custody.

Those traveling through Wisconsin on their way to Chicago from a state not on the list do not need to quarantine if they were in Wisconsin for less than 24 hours. But Individuals who travel to Wisconsin, even if for less than 24 hours still need to quarantine upon returning unless deemed an essential worker and follow other quarantine restrictions.

Essential workers and individuals who are commuting from Wisconsin to Chicago for the purpose of work will be exempt; however, commuters have to follow the same rules as essential workers, such as limiting activities to work-related matters, wear face coverings and avoid long periods in public and large groups.


News – Traveling outside Illinois? Chicago residents must quarantine after visiting 22 states. Here’s what you need to know to avoid a large fine.

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