What are the state quarantines really like?

Aug 20, 2020

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As we’ve been reporting, several states in America have imposed two-week quarantines on anyone arriving from hard-hit areas in the United States in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus. These states initially included Alaska and Hawaii. As the pandemic escalated, and America became the hardest-hit country in the world, those quarantines have spread (or in some cases been revised).

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Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island all have some kind of quarantine requirement for some arrivals. States like New York require people coming from 35 states and territories to quarantine themselves for 14 days upon arrival. The city of Chicago has also imposed a quarantine on visitors from some states.

Related: State by state guide to coronavirus and travel in the U.S.

Even states like California that don’t have any travel restrictions suggest you stay isolated for a few weeks.

Hawaii is probably the strictest, requiring visitors to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, or risk being fined $5,000 or face up to a year in prison. In fact, The Associated Press reports a Hawaii high school teacher was arrested for violating the 14-day traveler quarantine rules. Hawaii just pushed back its official reopening date to October 1, and even if it opens then, you’ll need to show a negative COVID-19 test to get in. Hawaii has had more than 5,600 cases and 42 deaths, according the state.

Related: Hawaii pushes back it’s reopening date again

So what’s it really like to be forced to quarantine? How much is it being enforced? It depends on a lot of factors.

Read on for some TPG reader and staffer stories.

What’s it like to quarantine?

We asked in the TPG lounge for folks to tell us their quarantine stories and we got a ton.


Hawaii appeared to be the most serious about enforcing the quarantine.

Tiffany Campbell Bond first spoke with TPG on Day 8 of her quarantine in Hawaii, saying she was getting stir crazy. “They haven’t checked in on us since the initial call after the first night and they are no longer requiring us to check in daily on their website. But they have set up a hotline for citizens to report violations if they see something.” Campbell Bond continued, “Quarantiners do a howl from balconies every night at 8 [p.m.] in a show of solidarity. Most of us are parents and UH (University of Hawaii) Manoa students trying to move our kids into dorms for fall semester. There are hundreds of us cooped up in just a few hotels in Honolulu.”

When we talked to Tiffany again on Wednesday, she told TPG:

“I’m done in about three hours. The rule is that my release time is the same as my arrival time 14 days ago. They called me twice, on Day 2 and 13, and also called [the] hotel front desk once. I was warned that plain clothed agents may knock on my door unannounced but that never happened. I am required to carry proof of my quarantine with me every where I go in the form of boarding pass or [a] hotel bill for the rest of my time here. And of course when they called, they always asked if we [were] feeling well and symptom free.”

Ted Faigle is also quarantining in Kauai, Hawaii. He said, “We had our first in-person check at the house today by the National Guard.” Faigle continued, “My husband just came home from a trip to the mainland. Others on Kauai have reported 2-3 visits by police or National Guard and several phone calls. There have been quite a few arrests in Hawaii for breaking quarantine and some sent back home when they refused to abide by quarantine rules upon arrival.”

Theresa Holderread said, “Quarantined at our new home in Kona, HI, a few weeks ago. Airport: filled out a form for COVID (info) in plane, landed and let off about 10 people at a time to screen temps, fill out another form, questioned, and phone call to my cellphone to verify it worked. At my residence: received call on Day 5, 12, and the day we were officially out of quarantine.”

Lorrie Smith Lynn Brekhus said some quarantine breakers have been busted and then tested positive for COVID-19. Brekhus said, “Recently there was a visitor whose entire family was positive. The teenager kept running away, dad kept going to find him. They were both arrested and kept in custody until they were cleared by DOH. Our COVID is going [on] up in Oahu because both visitors and locals are not taking quarantine seriously. There is now a group that has over a thousand members across the state that watch for quarantine breakers and turn them in to the authorities.”

Julie Allen Paul told TPG:

“I am assisting my girlfriend here in Hawai’i, who gets off the 14-day quarantine this Friday. The authorities have called her three times and the last call said they would call her on Friday. I would also add that she had a doctor come to her condo and give her [a] test for COVID-19. It was $280 and she got her results within 24 hours. Her test was negative but she still has to quarantine the full 14 days. It was more about peace of mind for the person who picked her up at the airport and myself. Before she arrived I stocked her refrigerator etc. It is illegal to leave your house or condo during quarantine.”

Coston Smauley told TPG he was on Day 8 in Hawaii and hadn’t received a single call: “The hotel provides a bagged breakfast each morning. Can have food delivered through Instacart, etc. No calls from the state yet. Getting through the airport was quick and painless.”

Massachusetts and Maine

Laura Motta, editorial director at The Points Guy has been through several state quarantines. She said, “I quarantined in both Massachusetts and Maine and I wasn’t tracked in either place — likely because I drove into both states in May, when enforcement wasn’t really impacting anyone who drove.

Motta continued:

“Self-quarantine in both of those places wasn’t especially difficult, because I traveled to New England from New York City. After the fear and isolation of quarantining in NYC, where distancing was a challenge and infection rates were high, the open space of New England felt like a relief. Plus, both Massachusetts and Maine took lockdown very seriously, and things like grocery delivery were easy to access.”

Jamez Adecamlab said he narrowly avoided a quarantine in Massachusetts: “I arrived before they implemented (August 1) the mandatory 14-day or face $500/day fine.”

Susan Scott Reeves said, “I flew into Boston last week as an essential worker. When I landed in BOS I was asked if I had filled out the travel form. When I said that I hadn’t since I’m an essential worker so not required to, he let me go. No other checks at all the entire week.”

Jack Lucero said, “I’ll be going through the MA quarantine starting Saturday. My friends who have done it say that it is never checked up on, but I will still be getting tested before I fly in so I can move in properly without having to deal with authorities if it is a problem. A lot of these states have little to no money to enforce or track anyone.”

Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates

New Jersey and New York

Brad Pinzer told TPG he’d been “quarantining” in NJ for the past 10 days, but “only received a text to fill out a form flying into EWR coming home from Chicago” (Illinois was added to the list while he was there for work). He told TPG he, “didn’t fill out the form as I figured I would get one on the plane. Not the case. NJ is certainly much more lax than NY and they make it pretty clear it is voluntary but expected.”

Related: New rules for hotels in NYC

Kathy Cunningham Pietrunti said:

“My husband and I are on Day 11 in NJ, where we live, as we went to FL and SC. Although not mandatory, we registered with the state when we got home. The county health department called on Day 1 and that was it so far. We are allowed to go out to get groceries, for medical appts, and we walk our dog for exercise. We did go for a COVID-19 test yesterday just to make sure we weren’t exposed while away. It has not been difficult for us. We are well practiced at social distancing and wearing our mandated masks.”

Cunningham Pietrunti told TPG later that that one call form the health department was it for the quarantine, which they are now done with.

Howard Shiau told TPG, “We returned to NYC from Nashville but flew into Newark. Voluntarily filled out the form online when we got home. My wife is a health care worker and was tested the day we got back: negative. I quarantined for two weeks at home anyway. We each received one text from NYS to confirm we understood the rules. That’s it.”


Florida had a quarantine for residents of some states that has since been lifted.

Wendy Borowski Palumbo told TPG she had to sign forms on her way across the Florida state border by car after getting into a separate line for residents of the Tri-State area of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York (they stopped everyone crossing in). Borowski Palumbo said, “Once we were there we didn’t hear a peep from anyone. We had asked if we could go to the beach, no one seemed to know.”


Lauren Fisch Cerny talked to TPG just before Alaska changed its rules to no longer require quarantine. Alaska will now require proof of a negative test on arrival and a second test 7-14 days after arrival, but at the time, Fisch Cerny said, “Alaska has no checks in place currently if you choose the quarantine option – and the testing wait time is 5-10+ days for airport tests for both residents and nonresidents.”

Related: A guide to visiting Alaska during coronavirus

Indeed, other reports suggest the Alaska rules have not been strictly enforced, but it has certainly kept many people away from the state, which is suffering mightily from a lack of tourists.

Portia Whitley said:

“I had to Quarantine here in Alaska in mid-June. We had the option to get tested upon arrival at the airport, which I did. I got my negative test result three days later. They called me with the news and said I was free to go to the grocery store and that I should only be with small groups of people. I was to get another test within the week but I did not. Getting back to Juneau from my location requires getting on a ferry or a flight. We are fairly isolated here so I stayed away from other people for 2+ weeks. We have no positive cases in our town right now but I still mask up in town. Going back to Rhode Island in the fall will be another story all-together! Safe travels everyone.”

Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy. 

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