Some Chicago Visitors May Avoid The City’s COVID-19 Travel Quarantine — If They Get Tested

Travelers coming to Chicago from certain states may now be able to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test instead of quarantining for 14 days.

However, some states with higher COVID-19 case tallies, such as Wisconsin and Indiana, would still require a self-quarantine.

The change goes into effect this Friday and comes as cases of coronavirus are skyrocketing here and throughout the Midwest.

Chicago’s Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Allison Arwady said the new travel order will compare each state’s COVID-19 data to Chicago’s before assigning it a color that dictates what kind of travel restrictions apply.

Red is most severe; orange is in the middle; and yellow is least restrictive.

Under the city’s new guidelines, there are 12 red states that right now require a 14-day quarantine. They are: North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, Utah, Idaho, Kansas and Indiana.

There are 31 states and Puerto Rico that are currently labeled orange. They require either a 14-day quarantine or a COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before arriving.

“If that test is negative, if they certified that they have not had known exposure to someone with COVID and do not have COVID symptoms, they may come to Chicago,” Arwady said. “They don’t need to quarantine, but they do need to continue the strict masking social distancing and avoidance of in person gatherings.

Yellow states do not require either a negative test or a self-quarantine, but Arwady said visitors still need to follow local mask requirements and social distancing guidelines. Just six states that currently fall into this category: New York, California, New Hampshire, Maine, Hawaii and Vermont.

Chicago’s case positivity rate continues to climb and is at 13% as of Tuesday. The city, like the rest of the country, is also seeing hospitalizations increase.

Arwady said she is glad President-elect Joe Biden put together a COVID-19 task force, which includes her predecessor at the Department of Public Health, Dr. Julie Morita. She said it’s also great to hear about positive results from one of the late-stage vaccine trials. But she cautioned people not to let their guard down because there’s still a long way to go before the pandemic ends.

She also expressed frustration with the current president and the spread of misinformation about coronavirus.

“There are still people who think masks don’t matter,” Arwady said. “They do. Having a mask on drops your risk to 85%, not 100%, but 85%.”

“[President Donald Trump] has another two months in office,” Arwady added. “These are in a lot of ways going to be the most difficult two months. I hope that he will speak the truth about what helps protect people against COVID, because protecting people against COVID is what also helps protect the economy.”

Becky Vevea covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.

This story has been corrected to clarify that travelers from “orange” states wishing to avoid a quarantine must have had a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before arriving in Chicago.