BOSTON — With coronavirus cases rising, states are seeking to limit cross-border travel, and it’s leading to bad feelings between neighbors.
Last week, Connecticut added Massachusetts to its advisory list. That means visitors from the Bay State must fill out a travel form when they arrive and present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test or quarantine for 14 days.
Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s discouraging people from the Empire State from making non-essential trips to Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts or Pennsylvania. His state’s restrictions also require proof of a negative test, or two weeks in quarantine, for visitors from those states to New York.
Gov. Charlie Baker said he called Connecticut and New York officials last week to tell them he thought their restrictions were “a bad idea.” He didn’t get far.
“They said, ‘thank you very much for your opinion,'” Baker told reporters recently.
A few days later, Massachusetts officials fired back. The Department of Public Health removed Connecticut and New Jersey from a list of states exempt from out-of-state travel rules. That means visitors from both of those states to Massachusetts are now required to quarantine for two weeks or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours. Violators could face fines of $500 or more.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont told reporters last week that Massachusetts residents entering his state won’t be singled out for scrutiny. He said he hopes to “work something out with Massachusetts.”
“It’s absolutely impossible to enforce travel restrictions between contiguous states,” he said. “People are driving across the border to get milk or something else.”
Connecticut also opted not to put Rhode Island and New Jersey on its travel advisory, despite rising COVID-19 infection rates in both states.
Most travel advisories, including in Connecticut and Massachusetts, target visitors from states that count 10 or more new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents each day. To be sure, most have exemptions for people who travel for work and family, or for routine trips between states for grocery shopping and other activities.
As of Friday, only seven states — California, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington state, and the District of Columbia — were on Massachusetts’ lower-risk list, which means travelers from those places can pass without restriction.
Political observers say the travel advisories are unenforceable and lead to tensions between states.
“It’s created a lot of bad blood and hostility between states,” said Greg Sullivan, a senior analyst at the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based think tank. “And these bans are really unenforceable.”
Sullivan, a former Massachusetts inspector general, said the only ports of entry where travel restrictions work are at airports and train stations, where arriving visitors can be given advisories and health forms to fill out.
“States can’t put up barriers at the borders,” he said. “And you’re not likely to have state troopers pulling people over to check on their status.”
While Baker is unhappy with the restrictions being imposed by other states, he still urges Massachusetts residents to follow other states’ travel advisories.
“States are doing what they believe is the best thing they can and should do to keep their states safe,” he said recently. “My one message would be people should do what they can to abide by those.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.