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Wyoming, Washington, Oregon now lower-risk states

Wyoming, Washington and Oregon are exempt from Massachusetts travel restrictions because all three states now qualify as lower-risk per Massachusetts standards. COURTESY OF CHAOSINABOTTLE VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Three new states — Wyoming, Washington and Oregon — are now exempt from Massachusetts travel restrictions.

Previously, travelers coming from these states were required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival or present a negative COVID-19 test obtained within the 72 hours leading up to arrival.

To determine whether a state can join the lower-risk category, the state’s number of daily cases per 100,000 residents must be below six and its positivity rate must be below 5 percent, according to the travel order.

Washington and Oregon have maintained consistent downward trends in confirmed positive cases, according to the Washington State Department of Health and Oregon Health Authority. 

However, Wyoming has seen a stronger downturn in positive cases following a rise at the beginning of September, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Wendy Parmet, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Health Policy and Law, said that while she commends Massachusetts for continuously revising and updating the lower-risk states list as new data emerges, problems could arise around how travelers interpret those guidelines.

“None of us should feel like if we’re in a low-risk state, that there’s no risk, and one of the things I worry about with these travel measures is that they send the message that there’s no risk in certain places,” Parmet said. “Unfortunately, there’s actually a significant risk everywhere.” 

Parmet said she’s concerned about whether the travel guidelines would be effective in practice. She said such protocols are “really hard” to enforce.

“To what extent are they really being followed? And to what extent are they being implemented?” Parmet said. “I think the answer is likely not very effectively.”

One major problem states face when creating reopening plans, Parmet said, is that with a lack of national guidance, they must rely on themselves for support.

“States are in a terrible bind right now,” Parmet said. “The lack of national guidance, the lack of a national plan … everything we’re doing in the absence of that is second-best and somewhat problematic.”

With ever-changing travel guidelines and restrictions, travel companies are finding it challenging to survive under unclear federal orders, Kathy Kutrubes, manager of Boston travel agency Kutrubes Travel, said.

Although COVID-19 restrictions have loosened somewhat, Kutrubes said her agency hasn’t recovered.

“COVID-19 has impacted my business tremendously. I usually do a lot of overseas bookings, especially to the Balkans,” Kutrubes said. “I’ve had one in the past week, but that’s been about it.”

Like Parmet, Kutrubes said the federal government needs to do more to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.

“I know the Europeans are laughing at us because we can’t seem to get people to wear masks,” Kutrubes said. “I think things are getting a tiny bit better, but I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know next year if people are really going to be traveling.”

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