(WHDH) — Is the Massachusetts travel order to help prevent the spread of COVID working? Hank Phillippi Ryan found though the state has strict rules— they’re not being enforced. Hank Investigates.
Millions of people are traveling in and out of Massachusetts during this pandemic.
Sonia flew into Logan recently. After landing she picked up her bags and went home. She did not fill out the state’s mandatory COVID paperwork.
“Did you fill out the form?” Hank asked.
“No,” Sonia said.
That form is a requirement for most adults who are coming to Massachusetts from the 48 other states considered “high risk” or from other countries. Whether you live in Massachusetts or not, you are supposed to explain where you’ll be staying, whether you’ve gotten tested, will be getting tested or plan to quarantine.
“I think it’s important for the state to be tracking people coming in. There are many states that have fairly intense transmission and we want to try and avoid having greater introduction of new newly infected individuals coming into the state,” David Hamer, M.D. who is a Professor of Global Health and Medicine at the Boston University School of Public Health and School of Medicine said.
From August to October more than a million people landed at Logan. But Massachusetts officials say only 347,801 people completed the travel form – and that includes people who came to the state by car or train.
“What do even those basic numbers tell you?” Hank asked.
“It tells me the system is not working. There’s a significant gap between the volume of people coming into the state and the sort of the forms are being completed,” Dr. Hamer said.
Logan has signs posted – some have QR codes you can scan to fill out the forms on your mobile device. And Massport workers inform passengers as they come off some flights.
“We are just doing everything we can to push these requirements to the passengers before they leave,” Dave Ishihara, Director of Aviation Services for Massport said.
But several people traveling thru Logan tell 7 Investigates they didn’t see any of those signs or hear any messages.
“There was nothing. Nothing else. No forms. No checks or anything,” Sonia said.
Is Massachusetts doing enough?
In New York, where there’s a similar order in place, National Guard teams meet every out-of-state flight and travelers have to prove they filled out a form before they can leave the airport. Travelers also get follow up calls and texts asking if they have any COVID symptoms.
“If you can use that as a tool to stop the spread of the virus and allow us to get to a point where there’s very limited community spread and we can start to open again, that’s the benefit,” Dr. Hamer said.
What happens to you if you don’t fill out the Massachusetts form? Nothing.
Technically there is a $500 penalty in place for not following the travel order. But we discovered officials have not issued one fine.
“It’s a completely voluntary, passive system. And with no degree of enforcement in it,” Hamer said.
Though Sonia didn’t know about the travel form, she tells us she did quarantine and got a COVID test that came back negative.
“We’ve been doing what we think we’re supposed to do,” Sonia said.
We tried to get a response to our findings from the state agency in charge of the travel order but they would not comment.
Click here for information on the Massachusetts travel form and travel order.
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