HARRISBURG — State agencies won't be demanding that out-of-state travelers provide documentation that they’ve had COVID-19 tests to comply with an order announced this week by Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.
Under Levine’s order, travelers must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Pennsylvania unless they’d gotten a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of traveling into the state. That order went into effect on Friday.
“Troopers will NOT be stationed at the state line or stopping vehicles to check for COVID test results,” Ryan Tarkowski, a state police spokesman, said.
The state Department of Community and Natural Resources announced that out-of-state visitors will be required to comply with Levine’s order when they visit state parks. But rangers will not be demanding that out-of-state visitors provide proof that they had taken a COVID-19 test, said Terry Brady, a DCNR spokesman.
“There will be no ‘checking of papers,’ so to speak,” Brady said. ‘Most overnight reservations are on-line generated and check-ins are ‘contactless.’”
Tarkowski said that state police have found that most people are voluntarily complying with the health orders put in place to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians are doing their part to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe and healthy during the pandemic,” Tarkowski said. “To date, the commonwealth placed an emphasis on educating the general public about the COVID mitigation orders, putting the emphasis on personal responsibility and urging Pennsylvanians to do the right thing,” he said.
Tarkowski said the state police have not ruled out a move to more aggressive enforcement of the public health orders if needed.
“The commonwealth is reviewing its enforcement mechanisms and is prepared to take more strict enforcement actions on chronic violators because it is imperative that we save lives and protect the public,” he said.
Visitors will not be able to camp in a state park during the period in which they are supposed to be quarantined from others, Brady said.
While rangers won’t be asking out-of-state visitors to provide documentation that they’ve tested negative for COVID-19, the agency is expecting that visitors will comply with the order to stay away if they haven’t gotten tested, he said.
An out-of-state visitor could be cited if a park ranger is investigating for another reason and learns that an individual is violating the health order, Brady said. Those citations could carry fines between $25-$300, he said.
State park visitors don’t have to wear masks if they are outside and socially-distanced from others. But visitors are required to wear masks in state park buildings.
The Department of Health is working to coordinate efforts with the Department of Transportation to get signs alerting motorists about the testing order for travelers, said Maggi Mumma, a Department of Health spokeswoman.
“We encourage all Pennsylvanians to connect with friends and loved ones outside your household virtually as much as possible,” she said. “For those that may need to travel, we suggest downloading the COVID Alert PA app, which works with neighboring states app’s like Delaware, New York and New Jersey, among others,” she said.
The testing requirement doesn’t impact people who cross state borders to commute to-and-from work, Mumma said.
Efforts to enforce an order targeting people who visit other states get particularly complicated in communities that are close to the state’s borders, said state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer County.
“It’s virtually unenforceable,” Longietti said. “I think the administration seems to be admitting that,” he said.
Public health officials at the state and federal level have expressed concern that holiday travel will fuel an even worse spike in the fall resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the dramatic increase in new cases and hospitals across the state straining to deal with increased numbers of hospitalized COVID patients, the order seems to be intended to reinforce the warnings against holiday travel, Longietti said.