Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Issues Emergency Travel Order Directing Travelers from States Seeing a Surge in COVID-19 Cases to Quarantine Upon Arrival in Chicago

July 2, 2020

Order mirrors action taken in New York and other states to further contain local spread of COVID-19

Andy Buchanan

CHICAGO – Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D., today issued an Emergency Travel Order directing travelers entering or returning to Chicago from states experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases to quarantine for a period of 14 days. The order applies to states that have a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average. This order will go into effect on Monday, July 6, 2020, at 12:01 a.m., and travelers from these states are directed to self-quarantine for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state.

“Like every action we have taken in response to the COVID-19 crisis, this decision was difficult but necessary in order to ensure the continued health and safety of Chicago’s residents and businesses,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Our success in staying ahead of this pandemic underscores our commitment to following the data of this disease, prioritizing saving lives, and working collaboratively with health officials, businesses and other stakeholders as we safely reopen our city’s economy. This emergency order will not only help contain the local spread of COVID-19 and preserve the positive progress we’ve made, it will also serve to prevent further spread nationwide and support the efforts of officials in other cities and states.”

“For close to six months now we’ve been laser-focused on containing this virus, limiting infections and ultimately saving lives, and we’ve made tremendous progress,” said Dr. Arwady. “That remains our focus today, and this order is another important measure in helping us further contain the spread of COVID-19 in Chicago.”

This measure is a response to increased and high rates of COVID-19 transmission in certain states and builds on ongoing enforcement measures by the City to slow the transmission of COVID-19, representing a cautious, incremental and evidence-based approach to reopening the city. The list of states included in the order will be updated every Tuesday, and the order will be in effect until further notice. There are exceptions for essential workers traveling for work purposes and for other specific circumstances outlined below.

Chicago has experienced several weeks of declining new daily cases, and the percent positivity rate – the percentage of people tested who are positive for COVID-19 – has fallen steeply and is now under 5%. But the city is still considered an area of moderate-high incidence under Centers for Disease Control guidance, and officials don’t want to see those gains reversed. Dr. Arwady has issued several public health orders during the pandemic to protect the public health, including previous orders applying the governor’s stay-at-home order and limiting public interaction. 

While Chicago and Illinois have seen steep declines in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, other parts of the country are seeing a surge in new cases and the country overall is setting new highs for daily COVID-19 cases. Because of this, officials in Chicago, similar to states such as New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, decided to act quickly in an effort to prevent a local resurgence. 

When the order goes into effect on July 6, travelers from the following states, including Chicago residents returning from these states, will be directed to quarantine upon arrival in Chicago:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Nevada
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah

Violators are subject to fines of $100-$500 per day, up to $7,000. Exceptions to the order for personal travel will be permitted for travel for medical care and parental shared custody, and for business travel to Chicago for essential workers. The Commissioner of Health may additionally grant exemptions based upon an organization’s or business’ testing and other control policies. 

Essential workers are defined as individuals who work in critical infrastructure as designated by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. They are exempt from the requirement to self-quarantine if traveling for work purposes, certified in writing by the worker’s employer and made available for review by authorized officials from the Chicago Department of Public Health and Chicago Police Department. This includes any state, local, and federal officials and employees, including members of the military, traveling in their official capacities on government business.

Such essential workers traveling for work purposes are subject to requirements that include limiting their activities to work-related activities and functions that directly support their work-related activities and avoiding public spaces as much as possible.

There are other exceptions to the order, as well. For example, it does not apply to any individual passing through designated states for a limited duration (less than 24 hours) through the course of travel, such as travelers changing planes at certain airports or driving through designated states.

The quarantine requirement applies to people even if they have no symptoms COVID-19 and those who test negative for COVID-19. Travelers coming from international locations should review the Centers for Disease Control travel recommendations by country.

The order and its current effects will be communicated to travelers through signage at O’Hare and Midway International Airports, on highways and roadways, as well as through City websites and social media channels. The City has asked hotels and short-term rentals to communicate the 14-day quarantine to guests who have traveled from one of the designated states as well.

Information about the exceptions to the order and answers to other questions can be found here.

Throughout the pandemic, individuals who are infected with COVID-19 or have come into contact with someone who is, have been advised to quarantine. Quarantine helps prevent the spread of disease before a person knows they are sick, including if a traveler has been infected with the virus but does not have symptoms. In this order, quarantine means staying at a single designated home or dwelling for 14 days before doing any activities outside of the home or dwelling. People in quarantine should separate themselves from others as much as possible and check themselves for symptoms. The requirements to safely quarantine can be found here.