DC to require negative coronavirus test, eliminates quarantine for visitors

DC to require negative coronavirus test, eliminates quarantine for visitors
© Bonnie Cash

Out-of-state visitors to the District of Columbia will have to provide a negative COVID-19 test, but will no longer have to quarantine upon arrival, according to updated travel restrictions announced Thursday.

Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserDC orders school and child care staffers, student athletes to be vaccinated with no testing option Biden to GOP governors planning vaccine mandate lawsuits: 'Have at it' Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE (D) said the city is changing its current requirement of a 14-day mandatory quarantine for travelers, which had been in place since July. Instead, they must test negative within 72 hours of traveling, and then obtain another test 3 to 5 days after arrival.

The city will continue to provide free tests at public testing sites for any visitors, workers or residents, Bowser said. 

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Travelers from Maryland and Virginia are exempt from the new rules, and D.C. residents returning to their homes can choose whether to limit activities and self-monitor for 14 days upon returning, or to get a test within 72 hours after returning and limit their activities until they receive a negative result.

Under the previous rules, anyone coming from a "high risk" state was required to quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in the city.

As coronavirus cases have spiked across the country, more states have been added, and the order now applies to people from 42 states. 

New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoZeldin says he's in remission after treatment for leukemia Letitia James holding private talks on running for New York governor: report Governors brace for 2022 after year in pandemic spotlight MORE (D) instituted a similar measure for the Empire State, requiring that visitors receive a negative test before they enter the state and test negative again four days after arrival. 

The announcement comes as Bowser and city officials have been urging people to avoid traveling for Thanksgiving and hosting large groups of out-of-state visitors. The new policy would seemingly make travel easier, though Bowser said there is no contradiction with previous messaging.

"We continue to ask people to limit their travel but we also know people are going to come here and they're more than likely are not going to quarantine for 14 days if they do," Bowser said during a news conference.

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Bowser said the city won't be strictly enforcing the rules with checkpoints or other requirements.

“Nobody is going to be asking you at the airport, or on bridges, or roads, or the train station to show your papers," Bowser said.

Instead, Bowser said the advisory is intended to be a tool to help private institutions manage travelers.

Hotels, universities, employers, houses of worship and other similar private enterprises will be allowed to ask visitors about their travel and require proof of a negative COVID-19 test.