Massachusetts travel restrictions currently separate other states via a high-risk, low-risk binary. While this distinction was set in place to help keep the spread of COVID-19 at bay, this kind of division still poses inherent dangers.
Allowing travelers from states deemed low-risk into the Commonwealth without any quarantine requirements implies a blind trust in all residents of those states to be virus-free if they are to enter Massachusetts. This is an unsafe policy for several reasons.
Just the word choice alone, firstly, could enable citizens of low-risk states to feel a false sense of security against the spread of the virus. The label of “low-risk” is earned by the actions of the state as a whole, and doesn’t represent individual decisions.
Someone in a low-risk state could very easily spread the virus by traveling elsewhere for one day or recklessly socializing with friends on one weekend. They can even unintentionally spread the virus on their way to work across state lines — low-risk does not equate to invincibility.
Yet, there is no middle ground between these two options. Classifying states only as high-risk or low-risk puts everyone in the extreme of situations. There must be a way to differentiate between trends in states.
States all over the country are in various stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Some states are high-risk, but their numbers are either stabilizing or decreasing; some are low-risk and their cases are rising; others are high-risk with cases that have been spiking for months.
At the end of the day, there is no “low-risk” in a pandemic. COVID-19 is a deadly, highly transmissible disease that has taken the lives of more than 900,000 people worldwide. Cases have reached nearly 6.5 million in the United States alone. No state has been unscathed.
The false security visitors from low-risk states might take hold of is similar to how we handle our lives on a daily basis. It is human nature to relax when things are going well, so when we see a low number of cases and begin to feel more comfortable in our environments, we think it is time to let loose with a maskless group picnic.
But we cannot let up. College students, for example, cannot look at the first few successful weeks of college classes and assume it’s become acceptable to go to a party on the weekends. States cannot open up their beaches because deaths went down for a single day.
This is why states set and maintain restrictions. But actually implementing certain consequences is a difficult task to manage.
Massachusetts requires those coming from out of state to fill out a travel form, but only if they are coming from a high-risk location. Those who do not fill out the form or comply with the necessary quarantine requirements can face a daily $500 fine.
Mandating only visitors from a high-risk state to comply is useless if there’s even a chance a coronavirus carrier from a state not included can enter the Commonwealth without being subject to quarantine rules.
There are a lot of asymptomatic people walking around, living normally because they are unaware they are carrying the virus. There are people with COVID-19 who have not been tested and thus aren’t even known as a confirmed case. These people can come from any state in the country, not just those deemed high-risk.
Infection rates aren’t even consistent across the blanket of an entire state. Someone could travel from a designated “low-risk” state, but from a county with significantly higher cases than someone traveling from a “high-risk” state.
Any of the 50 states can be identified as high-risk, low-risk, moderate or anything in between. But there is truly only one thing in common: risk.
As frightening as it may sound, no one can feel safe in this situation. We have to be on our guard, ready to take responsibility for the spread of this virus. The good-bad binary is creating false narratives and already leading to superiority complexes between residents of different states.
When those of us in New England ridicule Midwesterners for acting without care for public safety, we are prone to forget that things aren’t perfect at home, either. Massachusetts still often sees upward of 200 or 300 positive cases on a daily basis.
No one place is safer than any other because of its number of cases. Rather than trying to restrict travel between specific states, travel should be restricted to the same degree all across the country. Quarantine periods should be enforced every time a visitor enters another state, regardless of where they came from.
It is evident that Americans do not like to be controlled in any aspect. But our sense of independence must wait a little longer — because our selfish desire for individual choice has only caused disease to spread exponentially even as other countries have managed to quell their outbreaks.