Here’s what you need to know about Chicago’s travel advisory

The public health order applies to anyone coming to Chicago from one of these 15 designated states where COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

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Anyone arriving in Chicago from a state seeing a surge in new coronavirus cases — whether they’re out-of-state visitors or returning city residents — must quarantine for two weeks under a new public health order issued by Mayor Lori Lightfoot ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Starting Monday, anyone who is traveling or returning to Chicago from states that have seen a spike in COVID-19 infection rates is required to quarantine for two weeks under a travel advisory issued by Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week.

The public health order, issued Thursday evening by Dr. Allison Arwady, who leads the Chicago Department of Public Health, applies to anyone coming to Chicago from one of these 15 designated states where COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.

Here’s what you need to know about Chicago’s travel advisory:

Why is the city imposing a travel advisory?

Lightfoot issued the public health order in response to the rise in COVID-19 infections primarily in the South and West regions of the U.S. The hope is this measure — which is similar to travel advisories the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have imposed — will help contain the spread of the highly contagious virus in the city, which entered Phase 4 of its reopening plan June 26, with museums and zoos, performance venues and more opening with additional safety precautions.

Who’s covered by the advisory?

The city’s order applies to anyone arriving in Chicago — whether they are an out-of-state visitor or returning city resident — who has spent more than 24 hours in one of 15 states that has seen a surge in cases over the last few weeks.

The city said it will update this list every Tuesday starting July 14. States will be added to the list if they have an infection rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents on a seven-day rolling average. And states who drop below that threshold will be removed.

When will the travel advisory end?

The answer to that question remains unclear. The city said the order will be enforced until further notice, and any changes will be based on public health officials’ recommendations.

What happens if a person from a flagged state doesn’t follow the order?

Though it’s unclear how the order will be enforced, violators are subject to fines of $100 to $500 per day, up to $7,000, the city said.

If a person tested negative for COVID-19 and hasn’t developed any symptoms, would they still have to quarantine for the full two weeks?

In short, yes.

The city said individuals coming from hotbed states are encourage to self-quarantine for two weeks even if they have tested negative for the virus or haven’t shown any symptoms because they can become contagious up to 14 days after their last exposure and could still develop symptoms at a later time.

Are there any exceptions?

People who travel for “essential” work are exempt, but the city urges them to “avoid public spaces as much as possible.” That includes “any state, local and federal officials and employees traveling in their official capacities on government business, including military service.”

There are some exceptions for personal travel, too, including people who travel for medical care and shared parental custody. The travel advisory also doesn’t apply to people who passed through flagged states during the course of travel as long as they didn’t stay longer than 24 hours. This can include drivers on short road trips and people who have connecting flights through hot bed states.

As for international travelers, officials say they’re also exempt, though they’re encouraged to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

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