[Update: This blog has been updated on June 5, 2020]
What Opening Up America Again Means For Your Travel Plans
As the coronavirus spread gradually slows across the country, several states are planning to relax restrictions on travel and movement across state borders. The White House has issued a set of guidelines for ‘Opening Up America Again.’ The idea is for states to move towards a safe, phased (3 phases in total) opening backed by more coronavirus testing. As of June’s first week, the majority of states, apart from Virginia, New Hampshire, California, Oregon, New Jersey, and Kentucky have completely withdrawn the stay-in-home and shelter-in-place orders. Virginia has set June 10 as a possible date of reopening, with New Hampshire, and Puerto Rico following with reopening on June 15.
Hang on a bit before you rush off to put on your traveling shoes, though! Let’s take a look at the most frequently asked questions on traveling after America opens up, and what you should know before you decide whether to travel or not.
1. When will states start reopening across the U.S?
The President had initially signaled that many states will start reopening by May 1st. However, the situation did not improve as expected and most of the states had to delay the reopening in a phased manner and push it towards the second week of May, with the exact date for reopening each state has been left to the governors. President Trump announced, “Governors will be empowered to tailor an approach that meets the diverse circumstances of their own states,” “And some states will be able to open up sooner than others.” The guidelines issued by the White House says that states which show a clear downward trajectory in ‘COVID-like’ and ‘Influenza-like’ cases within a 14-day period can move towards a phased opening. These states will be able to reopen restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship, and gyms, provided they follow strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.
2. Which states in the U.S. will open first?
Georgia is going to be one of the earliest states to reopen businesses, with Governor Kemp indicating that businesses can reopen with minimum basic operations starting April 24th. Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Texas are the other states that have announced they will be reopening local businesses in the coming weeks. *
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has released a map projection that shows when each state could potentially start easing restrictions. According to the prediction, Vermont, West Virginia, Montana and Hawaii, could safely relax some restrictions on May 4th as long as they continued to limit social gatherings.
*Please note that this is just a probable list and can change depending on the situation on the ground. More states may open up, or some states may decide to stay closed.
3. What are the guidelines for each phase of reopening in the United States?
Phase 1 reopening guidelines
- Employers should allow employees to continue teleworking.
- Return to the office should be in phases.
- Accommodations should be made for vulnerable employees.
- Non-essential travel should be minimized.
- Avoid socializing in groups of more than 10 people.
- Maximize physical distancing from others when in public.
- Large venues such as movie theaters, sporting venues, sit-down dining, and places of worship can reopen with strict physical distancing protocols.
Phase 2 reopening guidelines
- Non-essential travel can resume
- Vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter-in-place
- Employers should continue to encourage teleworking where feasible
- Bars can reopen with diminished standing room capacity
- Large venues such as movie theaters, sporting venues, sit-down dining, and places of worship can reopen with moderate physical distancing protocols.
Phase 3 reopening guidelines
- Vulnerable individuals can resume public interactions but with strict social distancing.
- Employees can resume working at their offices
(Vulnerable individuals are defined as elderly individuals, as well as people with underlying health conditions like chronic lung disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and asthma. It also includes individuals who are immune-compromised as a result of medication/therapy.)
4. Can I fly in the U.S. right now?
Yes, you can, if it’s for an essential reason, flying is still allowed. That being said, the level 4 travel advisory issued by the U.S. Department of State advising U.S. citizens to avoid international travel still holds. Most airlines have already stopped most of their international flights and have announced plans to reduce services within the U.S. too. This will probably make booking a flight a little difficult right now.
5. Can I drive across state lines?
Yes, you can. States cannot prohibit residents of another state from entering, but they can insist on quarantines or statements of purpose. Several states have set up checkpoints to keep a check on residents from other places from crossing their borders. For instance, Texas, Delaware, Florida, and Rhode Island are stopping drivers with out-of-state license plates and making them sign forms promising to self-quarantine for 14 days. Again, those who are entering the state for essential purposes appear to be exempt.
Think before you travel
Ask yourself – Is my travel urgent? Before you make your travel plans, assess whether you are putting yourself or your family at risk. If you have underlying health conditions, you probably should put off traveling for a little while more. If you must travel, follow all the guidelines issued by the CDC. Follow physical distancing and health guidelines, such as washing/sanitizing your hands frequently and avoid touching your face. If you’re flying to your destination, avoid taking public transportation to the airport. Drive down yourself and make sure to pre-book your airport parking online to minimize physical contact. Follow the same process if you’re traveling by road – buy a parking pass online, that will let you scan in and out with minimal interaction.
Reserve your airport parking space in advance with Way online or via the iOS and Android apps!