Pandemic boundaries

Via the Boston Globe  comes the consideration of boundary problems this pandemic poses between US states. Worth a discussion. Also, on the world stage, the EU and other countries consider relaxing travel restrictions from ‘safe’ countries, the US not among them.

Visitor quarantines may seem like a smart intervention to keep the virus from crossing state lines. Symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear after someone is infected, and research suggests people can transmit the virus even when they’re showing no signs of illness, said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious diseases physician and medical director of the Special Pathogens Unit at Boston Medical Center.

But a quarantine strategy may not be a realistic approach to stopping further infections, she said, because it’s hard to monitor every car crossing the border, and the state can’t stop travelers flying in to airports, which are federal sites.

“After states have been going it on their own, we are now quickly realizing our state is tied to [other] states,” Bhadelia said. “What happens in Florida or Arizona is not independent. Our borders are so porous.”

Legal issues associated with attempting to block or impede travel may also prove an obstacle, said Wendy Parmet, a professor of law, public policy, and urban affairs at Northeastern University.

“Travel advisories are themselves deeply problematic,” she said. “The dilemma is showing up the disaster of what’s been happening: the fact that we don’t have a federal policy, and no consistency among the states.”

She allowed that the plight of Massachusetts this summer “may be an instance where there is some merit to [travel quarantines] because you have situations with people coming in from jurisdictions that are not doing social distancing, or widespread use of masks, and it’s a real problem.”

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