Executive Order 9I Exempts Travel to New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island from Affected State COVID-19 Quarantine List
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As COVID-19 test positivity rates in Connecticut become more ominous and the long-feared fall “second wave” rears its ugly head,  Governor Lamont’s executive orders regarding travel into Connecticut continue to evolve.  The Governor’s latest executive order on travel into Connecticut – Executive Order 9I – was issued on October 27, 2020 and effectively exempts the states of New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island from quarantine restrictions by removing these states from the “Affected State” travel restriction list regardless of their COVID-19 test positivity rates.  As a result of this change, employers may wish to modify their out-of-state travel policies to clarify that New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island are exempt from the Affected State travel list pursuant to Executive Order 9I.

Back in July with the issuance of Executive Order 7III Connecticut first imposed mandatory self-quarantine requirements for travel into Connecticut from so-called “Affected States.”  An “Affected State” as defined under Executive Order 7III and carried forward in Executive Order 9I – subject to the New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island exemption mentioned above – is a state “with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10% test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.”  Every Tuesday the list of states meeting either of these criteria is updated and published on the State of Connecticut’s COVID-19 response page.

In September, with the issuance of Executive Order 9B, mandatory self-quarantine requirements were also added for travel into Connecticut from “Affected Countries.”  An “Affected Country,” as first defined in Executive Order 9B and carried forward in Executive Order 9I, is a country “for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice.”  A list of countries meeting this criteria – at this point an overwhelming majority of countries in the world – is available through the CDC’s website.  

Under Connecticut law as set forth in the Governor’s executive orders, travelers who have spent at least twenty-four hours in an Affected State or Affected Country within fourteen days of arriving in Connecticut must either self-quarantine for fourteen days from the date of last contact with the Affected State or Affected Country or submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test to the Connecticut Commissioner of Public Health.  Per Executive Order 9I, “[o]nly results for nucleic acid COVID-19 tests, such as reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests,” are acceptable, and such tests must have been taken either within seventy-two hours prior to arrival in Connecticut or any time after arrival.  Notwithstanding this requirement, certain essential workers who either return to Connecticut or travel into the state from Affected States or Affected Countries are exempt from quarantine requirements if their travel was, or is, for work purposes.

According to the frequently asked questions section of Connecticut’s COVID-19 response page, the new exemption from the Affected States’ list for New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island was made in consideration of the fact that these states are extremely interconnected with Connecticut and share common modes of transportation.  Notably, while our neighbors to the east, west and south were exempted, our bordering neighbor to the north – Massachusetts – was not included in Executive Order 9I’s exemption list.  While it is unclear exactly why this is the case, it may be due to the fact that as of October 27, 2020, Massachusetts qualified as a COVID-19 Affected State.

What Does This Mean for Employers?  If you have an existing COVID-19 out-of-state travel policy in place you may elect to amend the language in your policy so that it aligns with Executive Order 9I’s exemption for travel to New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island.  However, in considering such a change be mindful that there is no prohibition on Connecticut employers imposing employee travel, testing and quarantine restrictions that are more restrictive than Governor Lamont’s executive orders.  Employers are free to impose more stringent COVID-19 travel policies than the law mandates, but in so doing must be careful not to run afoul of legal obligations under other laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, not to mention any applicable employee contract or collective bargaining agreement provisions.  As always, if your organization is unsure of its obligations under the Governor’s executive orders or any other COVID-19 guidance please contact our Labor and Employment law attorneys for assistance.

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