WASHINGTON – With virus numbers rising locally and nationally and the holiday travel season looming, the nation's capital is revamping its COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Starting next week, visitors coming to Washington, D.C., from a state classified as high risk will be required to take a COVID-19 test and receive a negative result within 72 hours before traveling. They will also be asked to take another test locally if they plan on staying here more than three days.
The new system replaces the one in place since July, which required visitors from hot-spot states to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser acknowledged Thursday that the quarantine system, which was entirely voluntary, was probably being violated by many visitors.
“We continue to ask people to limit their travel and stay home," Bowser said. “We also know that people are going to come here and they're more than likely not going to quarantine for 14 days if they do.”
It also was unrealistic that travelers would abide by the quarantine rules, particularly as Washington's hot-spot list has grown to encompass 42 states. There also was no way to enforce it.
Under the new restrictions, private institutions such as hotels, universities, employers and houses of worship are permitted to demand proof of negative COVID-19 tests before allowing people to enter, but Bowser said the government won't be involved in such enforcement.
“Nobody is going to be asking you at the airport, or on bridges or roads or at the train station, to show your papers,” Bowser said.
Visitors from neighboring Maryland and Virginia are exempt, as well as those staying in D.C. less than 24 hours and those traveling on essential business.
Washington, Maryland and Virginia have all witnessed rising infection rates in recent weeks, with Maryland and Virginia experiencing the most dramatic spikes. The main infection metrics in Washington, D.C., have doubled in recent weeks, but are still around half of the local peak in May. The city reported 81 new infections Thursday, for an overall total of 17, 682, with 650 deaths.