On Friday, July 24, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issued an Executive Order announcing a $500 daily civil fine, effective August 1, for individuals traveling into the Commonwealth who fail to comply with the State’s mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement. For more information on Governor Baker’s order, please see our previous Legal Update here. As part of the Executive Order, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (“DPH”) was instructed to prepare guidance on the Governor’s Executive Order. The same day, the DPH issued binding guidance.
The DPH Guidance provides further details about the testing procedures contemplated by the Executive Order. The Executive Order permits travelers to avoid the 14-day self-quarantine requirement by receiving a negative COVID-19 test result from a test taken within 72 hours prior to traveling into the Commonwealth. The DPH Guidance specifies the types of tests that may be used to meet this requirement, including an FDA EUA-approved molecular (PCR) SARS-CoV2 test or an antigen test confirmed by a negative result from an FDA EUA-approved molecular (PCR) SARS-CoV2 test. The Guidance makes clear that results from antibody (serology) tests and antigen tests not confirmed by a negative result from an FDA EUA-approved molecular (PCR) SARS-CoV2 test do not satisfy the testing exemption. Any individuals who receive a positive COVID-19 test result are required to self-isolate in their home states.
The Order requires all travelers – except those arriving from identified lower-risk states or travelers who meet certain, limited circumstance-specific exemptions – to submit a Massachusetts Travel Form upon or prior to entry to the State. The DPH Guidance links to the online Travel Form, available here. The Travel Form requires travelers to (i) provide their contact information, (ii) supply their dates of arrival to and departure from Massachusetts, (iii) certify how they will comply with the Order by either self-quarantining or receiving a negative test result, (iv) certify that they will comply with mask and social distancing requirements and do not have any COVID-19 symptoms, and (v) attest to the truth of the information provided. The Travel Form also requests information about dependents traveling with the individual.
The DPH Guidance further clarifies how individuals traveling into the Commonwealth must self-quarantine, if required by the Order. Travelers required to self-quarantine must remain within their quarters for a 14-day period and each individual or family group must have separate living quarters and bathroom facilities from other individuals or family groups. The Guidance specifies that certain cleaning supplies, such as bleach, paper towels, and cleaning wipes, must be available. Travelers subject to self-quarantine are only permitted to leave their living quarters to receive urgent medical care, and no other people should be permitted into the travelers’ living quarters during self-quarantine, including hotel staff or delivery people. The Guidance also notes that food must be delivered to the travelers’ living quarters in order to maintain isolation and comply with the Order and Guidance. The DPH Guidance explains that travelers who intend to visit Massachusetts for more than a day but fewer than 14, and who must self-quarantine under the Order, must remain in isolation throughout the visit.
The DPH Guidance also explains that employees traveling for business-related purposes are subject to the self-quarantine requirements, unless their travel falls under one of the exemptions. Consistent with the Order, the DPH Guidance requires employers that permit employer-paid or -reimbursed travel to places other than lower-risk states should take measures to ensure employees comply with the Order. Employers are also urged to strongly discourage their employees from taking leisure travel to destinations not included on the list of lower-risk states.
The Guidance also highlights specific scenarios not addressed by the Order. The Guidance explains that students and their families traveling into the State to return to school and reside on campus must comply with the Order and self-quarantine if necessary. The Guidance also explains that individuals who are informed that they have been in recent contact with a COVID-19 positive individual must self-quarantine in their home states, even if they received a negative COVID-19 test result within the 72 hours prior to arrival in Massachusetts.
Like the Order, the DPH Guidance leaves open several questions, such as whether lodging providers are obligated to report violations of the quarantine requirements and exactly when a traveler’s self-certification must be submitted in relation to the visit. Employers should heed the Guidance’s strong urging to discourage employees from taking leisure travel to destinations not included on the list of COVID-19 lower-risk states. The DPH Guidance stops short of specifying those steps an employer may take to discourage or limit such off-duty conduct.
We will continue to keep you apprised of any other significant developments in or changes to the Commonwealth’s travel guidance.