Starting in March, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder and harder for many people to travel. Due to limited flights and the tedious testing process, both domestic and international travel has become too inconvenient. While the U.S. statewide travel bans are updated relatively frequently depending on the pandemic situation, international travel bans remain roughly the same as months ago.
Quarantine mandates and recommendations vary notably by state as the situation develops. Most states in the country’s central and southeastern parts do not have any restrictions in place for out-of-state travelers. States on the west coast and in the south-central part of the country have lifted the requirement of 14-day quarantine, yet these states are not moving forward with the next reopening phase. On the other hand, most northeastern states, as well as Alaska and Hawaii, have put quarantine requirements or recommendations in place for out-of-state travelers. Starting on August 1st, the travel restriction for out-of-state travelers entering Massachusetts states that, unless arriving from a state categorized by the Department of Public Health as low risk, all visitors and residents have to complete a travel form before entering the state. Travelers must quarantine for 14 days or hold a negative COVID-19 test result administered up to 72 hours prior to their arrival in Massachusetts.
Nationwide travel bans have still not been lifted. Parents or guardians of U.S. citizens and permanent residents may enter the country if their child is under 21 and unmarried, and spouses of a U.S. citizen or resident may travel to join their partner in the U.S. Siblings of U.S. citizens or residents may enter the U.S. only if they and their siblings are under 21 and unmarried. On the other hand, several presidential proclamations still restrict foreign nationals who have been in any country on the list of exceptions in the past 14 days from entering the United States. Countries on the full list of exceptions used to be places involving a high risk of infection, including China, Iran, the Schengen area of Europe, the UK, Ireland, and Brazil. These proclamations were issued months ago, with the earliest pushed on January 31, 2020, restricting travelers from China. The US has not been updated even though situations in some of these countries have been ameliorated.
Domestic and international travel restrictions have impeded CA students, especially boarders, from returning to campus. To prevent the spread of the COVID-19, all the countries have reduced the number of flights available, so airplane tickets are hard to book in the first place. As supply decreases, the price of airplane tickets inevitably increases. The cost of a one-way flight from the U.S. to Asia can be as high as $15,000. Furthermore, the travel bans make it nearly impossible for some international students to come to the U.S.
As a Chinese international student, to return to campus I would have to travel to a country that is not on the list of exceptions (either Cambodia or the United Arab Emirates), and stay there for 14 days before flying to the US and self-quarantining there for two weeks. In short, Chinese students – along with many other international boarders- have to spend at least a month to come back to school.
In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has created many obstacles for traveling and boarders’ return to CA. Hopefully, the pandemic can be controlled as soon as possible so that travel restrictions can be lifted.