Updated 3:45 pm
On Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker announced strict new rules for those traveling to Massachusetts.
Per the new order, everyone coming into the state must fill out a “Massachusetts Travel Form,” while also quarantining for 14 days, unless they are coming from a state where the coronavirus risk is lower, or they can produce a negative coronavirus test results that was taken no more than 72 hours prior to coming to Massachusetts.
The new travel order applies to all people entering Massachusetts, including out-of-state residents and Massachusetts residents returning home. Those who do not comply are subject to a fine of $500 per day. Signage is being put up at Massachusetts airports, train stations, and highway rest areas.
On March 27, Baker urged all travelers coming to Massachusetts to self-quarantine for 14 days. Those showing COVID-19 symptoms are instructed to not travel to Massachusetts. On June 30, Baker relaxed that advisory for New Yorkers and residents of other New England states.
Baker said the increased amount of travel, the increase in cases across the country, and students returning for the fall were three main reasons why he has issued the new order. “People have lots of reasons to visit Massachusetts right now. You may be coming in for a vacation, or to start a new job. Students may be gearing up to come back to school in the fall,” Baker said. “Keep in mind that this order applies to everyone.”
Travelers are exempt from this order if they are coming from a state listed as “lower risk.” Lower-risk states include Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, and Hawaii.
The new order goes into effect on August 1.
“The commonwealth is continuing to take COVID-19 seriously. We are simply asking those who visit our state and those residents who leave our state to act responsibly,” Stephanie Pollack, secretary and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said.
Brad Schiff, a spokesman for the Steamship Authority, said there will be signage notifying passengers of the order.
“The state has asked that airlines and trains to put up their own signage. The SSA will do the same,” Schiff wrote in an email to The Times.
Minutes after Baker finished his press briefing, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital posted on its Facebook page, alerting the public to the new order and detailing the rules.
“And everyone, local or visitors, please wear a mask!” the post added.
Baker said hotels and other lodgings will continue to inform their guests, as they have done.
“The Airbnbs and the hotels are going to be expected to inform people that these are the rules when they book a room, and they are going to be expected to inform them when they show up that these are the rules,” Baker said. “If they’re here for 14 days, they need to quarantine, and they need to contact the tracing collaborative.”
He added that this will work on the “honor system,” which he said has worked well in Massachusetts.
Joan Talmadge, co-owner of We Need a Vacation, said the short-term rental company is putting out a robust announcement on the update to all homeowners and vacationers.
“Fortunately, the vast majority of our vacationers who use our site and book a home are coming from New England. But I think it does affect some homeowners, because they do have some guests that are coming from, say, Colorado or Missouri or Maryland,” said Talmadge. “We’re directing them to inform those guests of the directive, that they either need to quarantine when they get here for 14 days, and in most cases that would be impractical and impossible, because many of them are coming for just a week, or, and this is the more practical one, is to be tested where they live, in their home state, within 72 hours of their arrival here, and then they would not have to quarantine, as long as they got a negative test result.”
Annabelle Hunton, president of the M.V. Lodging Association, shared that this update had been expected by some members of the Island lodging economy. “I would say, in general, we’re not surprised. New York had had this quarantine in place for a while, as has New Jersey. It doesn’t come as a huge shock,” said Hunton. “We’re kind of pleased that the governor is at least allowing people to come in from out-of-state if they’ve had the test, which, once again, a few months ago, that was impossible for people to get.”
Hunton said it is difficult to project how this evolving situation may play out. “It’s kind of hard being here on the Island because, obviously, tourism is what drives the economy here, and there’s definitely going to be a negative impact on the local economy, just with people thinking ahead. We have concerns with maybe somebody in Texas that’s now, like, ‘Oh, we were thinking of going, and now we’re not.’ But hopefully, the towns and the commonwealth are going to support some of our small businesses.”
Hunton expressed hope that Gov. Baker will change the list based on developing situations in other states. “We can only hope he keeps the list of states updated,” said Hunton. “Hopefully, if things are going down in Maryland or D.C., they are keeping an eye on that, and keep it updated and add to this list of states that are able to come in.”
Oak Bluffs Association executive director Christine Todd said many Vineyard tourists are coming from states on the exempt list, but there are plenty coming from farther away, such as Washington, D.C., and California.
“It really begs the question of enforceability,” Todd said. “Is there somebody at the boat and the airport who is going to say, ‘Oh you’re from whatever state, you’ve got to stop and fill out this form”?
Intern Clare Lonergan contributed to this report. Updated with more details and reactions.