Baker launches tougher ‘honor’ system for travelers
Orders quarantines; road traffic returning to year-ago levels
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER on Friday announced tougher-sounding restrictions on nearly all travelers entering the state from outside the region, requiring them to quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous three days.
The order, which takes effect August 1, is very similar to voluntary restrictions already in place, but it comes with a new form to be filled out and a $500-a-day fine for noncompliance. The form, available online, requires travelers to report where they come from, where they will be staying, and how they can be contacted, which will allow local boards of health and the state’s contact tracing collaborative to make sure they are in compliance.
The process sounds rigorous, with airlines, rental car companies, bus operators, hotels, and short-term rental lodging operations required to notify their customers about the new rules. But Baker indicated the onus will be on travelers to comply and enforcement will be carried out with a light tough. He said state troopers won’t be pulling over drivers coming into Massachusetts from out of state. As with wearing masks and practicing good hygiene, Baker said, Massachusetts will operate largely on an honor system.
“The honor system in Massachusetts has worked pretty well,” Baker said.
The qualifications for a low-risk COVID state are six or fewer cases per 100,000 residents and positive test rates of 5 percent or less. Marylou Sudders, the governor’s secretary of health and human services, said Massachusetts currently has a 1.8 percent positive test rate and 3.6 cases per 100,000 residents.
Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said part of the reason for the new travel order is increasing traffic on the roads and at Logan International Airport.
Road traffic appears to be rebounding strongly. Pollack said traffic at key checkpoints around the state during the first three weeks of July was just 10 to 15 percent less than it was at the same time a year ago.
At Logan, Pollack said, traffic is coming back more slowly. She said 3,300 passengers on average went through security checkpoints at Logan in May, a number that increased to just over 7,000 in June, and rose to just over 12,000 in the early part of July. She noted 51 of the roughly 200 to 300 flights arriving at Logan each day originate in California, Florida, and Texas, three states seeing a steep run-up in COVID-19 cases.
“We are seeing more people moving around, both within Massachusetts and from out of state,” Pollack said.
Baker repeatedly praised Massachusetts residents of all ages for continuing to do the COVID basics – wearing masks, social distancing, and following good hygiene practices.
“A lot of what’s driving the increase in cases coming out of the South is just an astonishing run-up in positive test rates for the under-30 crowd,” Baker said. “We do not have that.”
But the governor said he had concerns about the young people who gathered fairly close together on the beach in South Boston last weekend, many of them without face coverings. If that continues, Baker said, officials may have to limit how many people can be on the beach at once.