Being in the red is a bad sign for your finances. But now it's also a bad sign for your ability to travel.
States around Indiana are using red status – the danger zone for COVID-19 prevalence – as a determining factor for regulating how people can travel to those states.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention went a big step beyond – urging people not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. Federal health officials also said to limit gatherings to household members.
Allen County and most of northeast Indiana slipped into the red category last week. That, plus surrounding states' own restrictions, means travel to nearby states is restricted, with a patchwork of potentially confusing regulations.
Take Michigan. Those thinking about jumping into a car and heading north for family celebrations or resort destinations need to consider the first line of the state's COVID-19 travel advice.
“In general it is best not to travel right now,” the advice states, adding if someone does need to travel, he or she should contact the destination county's health department for advice.
In Jackson County, east of Interstate 69 between Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo in southern Michigan, there's more bad news from health department staff member Lindsay Boike, a registered nurse.
Travelers are now subject to a 14-day quarantine on arriving, she said, and she recommends considering a similar quarantine when returning to their home base.
“The amount of community transmission is high, and we don't want anyone to bring it in to us or be taking it back,” she said.
In addition, she said attractions may be closed, including casinos not operated by Indian tribes.
In Ohio, a 14-day quarantine is recommended for anyone from a state with a 15% positivity rate. Indiana as of Tuesday was not at that level. Ohio's guidance for travelers placed Indiana at 13%.
More recent statistics from both states will be issued today.
Six counties in northeast Indiana – Allen, DeKalb, LaGrange, Steuben, Wells and Whitley – already stood in the red zone at 15% or greater as of Tuesday.
Ohio also has a stay-at-home curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Bars, restaurants and retail establishments are to close.
However, the rule allows travel through the state and travel for work during those hours. Gas stations are likely to be open, and so are some grocery and convenience stores, although food and drink must be carryout. That's according to Ohio's coronavirus hotline at 833-427-5634.
Indiana residents don't face travel restrictions in Illinois. But those going to Chicago face a stern travel order that placed Indiana in the red zone as of Nov. 17. Anyone traveling from a state on the red list must quarantine 14 days or the duration of their time in Chicago, whichever is shorter.
Even if Indiana reverts to orange status, restrictions in Chicago remain. Travelers from orange areas must obtain a negative COVID-19 test result, with proof, no more than 72 hours before arrival in Chicago – or quarantine 14 days or the duration of their stay, whichever is shorter.
The requirement of test-result proof basically rules out a quick shopping trip to the Windy City over the long weekend, as area test sites are either closed for the holiday or not able to deliver results that quickly.
Travel within Indiana is not specifically restricted by state officials, said Megan Hubartt, spokeswoman for the Allen County Department of Health.
Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter for several weeks has been standing by the CDC travel advice and “keeping Thanksgiving celebrations limited to members of one household,” Hubartt said.
According to CDC guidance, people who travel should take the same precautions as they would at home. Travel to another state can increase the risk of spreading or being exposed to COVID-19, the CDC says, especially if the travel is to states with higher case rates.
Wearing a mask, hand-washing or using hand sanitizer, staying 6 feet away from others and avoiding touching the face or eyes are all recommended, as are getting a flu shot before departure and monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms during and 14 days after traveling.
When driving, the guidance says, making stops for food, gas or restrooms can put a person in contact with other people or contaminated surfaces.
That advice is in line with AAA-The Auto Club Group, spokeswoman Molly Hart said.
“Before you get on the road, pack snacks, meals, water, drinks, and an emergency roadside kit to reduce the time spent at gas stations,” she said.
And, given the changeable weather at this time of year, also be prepared with cold weather clothing, blankets, an ice scraper and properly inflated tires, and “keep the gas tank more than half full at all times,” she said.
The auto club's TripTik service online has a section on state rules for COVID and information on whether rest stations are open or closed.
State travel expected to drop 5.3%
AAA-The Auto Club Group, informally known as Triple A, estimates up to 50 million people nationwide and 1.1 million Hoosiers will travel for Thanksgiving, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying restrictions.
That's down 4.3% from last year, and the actual number may be lower because the predictions were made in early October before spikes in the illness, spokeswoman Molly Hart said.
Indiana's numbers are down 5.3% from last year, she said. But highways still may look a bit crowded because about 40% fewer people plan to travel by air and 0.5% more plan to travel by car.