US authorities have extended the closure of the nation's land borders with Canada and Mexico to all nonessential travel through at least Nov. 21, as part of efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The closures, which initially entered into force March 21, do not affect trade, movement of essential goods and workers, transport of food or medicines, or transit by cargo trucks. US citizens and legal residents returning to the country, as well as individuals traveling to attend educational institutions, are exempt.
Other restrictions remain in place. US authorities continue to ban entry by most nonresident foreign nationals who have been in Brazil, China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau), Iran, UK, Ireland, and the European Schengen Area within the previous 14 days. US citizens and legal residents who have traveled to a country on the restricted list within 14 days prior to their return are allowed to enter but are urged to limit contact with people from outside of their households upon arrival in the US.
Since Oct. 1, US authorities have added exceptions for nonresident foreign nationals entering from the Schengen Area, UK, or Ireland to enter the US. Business travelers, investors, academics, and journalists, among others, may qualify for a national interest exception, but must contact US diplomatic offices in order to apply.
The government in Washington continues to advise US residents to avoid nonessential travel to most countries in the world due to COVID-19 concerns. As of Oct. 19, US authorities consider only 33 countries and territories worldwide to have moderate, low, or very low-risk of COVID-19, including New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, Mongolia, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Laos, New Caledonia, Taiwan, and Vietnam; there are no governmental advisories against travel to designated moderate, low, or very low-risk destinations, except for persons having special risk factors. Travelers returning from all other locations are urged to remain at home as much as possible, wear protective face masks, and practice social distancing.
Authorities advise all residents nationwide to avoid gatherings and crowded places, maintain a distance of at least 1.8 meters (six feet) from others when in public, and wear protective facemasks that cover the mouth and nose. Persons 65 years of age or older and those with underlying health conditions are advised to remain at home whenever possible.
State and local authorities have taken measures above and beyond those at the federal level. Several states have imposed additional travel restrictions, including for travelers entering from other US states. Most states still have some limitations on business activities; however, the majority of these restrictions have been significantly eased since they were initially imposed, allowing many businesses, facilities, and services to reopen.
Authorities at the federal or local levels could reimpose, extend, further ease, or otherwise amend any restrictions with little-to-no notice depending on disease activity over the coming weeks.
Background and Analysis
The measures implemented by the US government are similar to actions taken by other governments globally in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands).