Timeline of the U.S. Reopening: A State-by-State Guide

Daily Life In New York City Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
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Since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March, the U.S. response to control and contain the spread has mostly been at the state level with state governments (and more locally, those of cities and counties) enforcing closures, social distancing, face masks, and other safety precautions. Some states began reopening their economies as early as April 2020 and more followed suit at their own pace in the following months. As cases rose to new heights in the fall, many states have had to reverse, pause, or revise their reopening plans along the way.

Although leading health experts are advising a nationwide shutdown, some states are still resisting and trying to keep their economies open. As hospital occupancy rates go up and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds become unavailable, some states may enforce tougher restrictions to bring these statistics down.

Due to the varying timelines, many travelers are wondering if it is safe (and legal) to travel between states and whether attractions and businesses will be open in their intended destinations. Some states are also enforcing travelers arriving from high-risk states and territories to quarantine upon arrival. These lists of high-risk states are constantly changing as infection rates fluctuate throughout the country and each state has its own standards for determining what is high-risk.

Use our guide below, broken down by region, to learn more about each state's reopening plan, newly announced restrictions, and what to expect if you plan to visit.

L.A. County Reopens Beaches And Parks Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
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West

Alaska

Alaska is currently in phases three and four of its five-phase reopening plan. Under this phase, which began on May 22, the following businesses are now open with capacity limitations and social distancing: gyms, restaurants and bars, museums, libraries, retail, pools and camping facilities, childcare, bowling alleys, organized sports, theaters, and more. In November, Gov. Mike Dunleavy ordered all state employees to work from home and asked Alaskans to work remotely whenever possible and maintain social distancing to keep the case numbers from rising. Smaller municipalities, like the city of Anchorage, may impose further restrictions.

Anyone arriving in Alaska from out-of-state must complete a declaration form and either provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, get tested on arrival, or self-quarantine for 14 days. If you are tested once you arrive in Alaska, you will have to self-quarantine until the results come back negative. Tests are free of charge for Alaska residents, but out-of-state visitors will need to pay $250.

Arizona

Most businesses are open with mask mandates and social distancing in place, but bars that do not serve food are closed statewide. Although Gov. Doug Ducey has encouraged Arizonans to limit their gatherings, he has not imposed new restrictions and the government changed the previous benchmarks to avoid closing businesses in December 2020, ruling out future closures.

California

The "Blueprint for a Safer Economy Plan" imposes a slower tier-based reopening plan based by county on a scale of minimal, moderate, substantial, and widespread. You can check the current status of each county on the official state website.

As of January 18, nearly all counties are in the widespread tier, which means non-essential indoor businesses are closed and there is a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. No counties are in the minimal phase. The governor issued a stay-at-home order in any region where the ICU occupancy drops below 15 percent.

Colorado

Colorado has implemented a new dial system that classifies counties by risk level and as of January 2021, the majority of counties are at level orange. Most businesses are allowed to open with safety measures, however, the restrictions vary based on what category each county falls under. Most counties have achieved lower transmission rates which allowed indoor dining to reopen, but bars are closed statewide.

Hawaii

Hawaii is currently in its phase three of reopening, called "Act With Care (Minor Disruption)," which allows most businesses (excluding large venues, bars, and clubs) to open with safety requirements. Travelers from other states are allowed to enter Hawaii and do not need to quarantine as long as they show a negative test taken within 72 hours of departure. If a traveler's results are still pending, they will not be allowed to board.

Any adult who plans to visit Hawaii will need to make an account on the official Safe Travels program website, supply their trip details, upload the results of their test and a photo of themselves, and answer a questionnaire within 24 hours of their flight. Travelers will also need to fill out the subsequent declaration and request forms if they plan to travel beyond Oahu to Kauai, Maui, or Hawaii (the Big Island) counties. Anyone traveling to Kauai will be required to quarantine on the island for 10 days or stay within the resort bubble, even if they have a negative test result.

Idaho

Idaho has a four-stage plan for reopening the state. It entered stage four (the final stage) on June 13, which allows all businesses to open with physical distancing and safety measures in place, but reverted to stage two in November. In the state's modified stage two, all gatherings are limited to 10 people and customers at bars and restaurants must stay seated. In December, Gov. Brad Little announced that the state would remain in the second stage but did not introduce further restrictions.

Montana

In January, Gov. Greg Gianforte rolled back restrictions to allow businesses to reopen without capacity limits and to stay open past 10 p.m. The statewide mask mandate is still in effect.

Nevada

On November 22, Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a pause and tightened restrictions that reduced capacity limits at restaurants to 25 percent and limited private gatherings to 10 people. These restrictions have been extended until mid-February.

New Mexico

New Mexico is using a color code system to determine how quickly businesses in certain counties can reopen. As of January 18, almost all counties are red, meaning that indoor dining is prohibited and outdoor dining is limited to 25 percent capacity. Unless visitors are coming from a low-risk state or territory they will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days or be tested within 72 hours before their arrival.

Oregon

After a statewide freeze in November, which required shops to reduce capacity and restaurants to return to take-out only, all counties in Oregon are now allowed to reopen businesses like outdoor dining based on risk level. As of January 18, most counties are still at the most extreme risk level which means indoor dining is prohibited and indoor business capacities are reduced to 25 percent or 100 people, whichever is less.

Utah

Gov. Gary R. Herbert never officially issued a stay-at-home order and most businesses, like restaurants, salons, retail, movie theaters, and more, are open with social distancing measures in place. In late November 2020, the governor lifted the limit on social gatherings but kept the mask mandate in place.

Washington

In January Gov. Jay Inslee announced a new strategy called "Healthy Washington" which began on January 11. The plan allows counties to move from Phase 1 to Phase 2 based on a number of factors like decreasing transmission rates and ICU occupancy rates. In Phase 1, restrictions are mostly the same with indoor dining closed, but indoor fitness centers will be allowed to open under strict rules. In Phase 2, indoor dining will be allowed at 25 percent capacity and gathering limits will increase.

Wyoming

On November 19, Gov. Mark Gordon issued new restrictions that reduced the allowable limit of public and private gatherings to 25 people or less, but businesses remain open. Although the governor did not issue a stay-at-home order at the start of the pandemic, statewide restrictions were gradually lifted over the summer to allow businesses to reopen and serve more customers. As of January 8, bars and restaurants have returned to normal operating hours as cases declined.

Wisconsin Re-Opens Non-Essential Businesses After Court Overturns Stay-At-Home Order
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Midwest

Illinois

Illinois has a five-stage plan to reopen, and the four regions within the state can progress through those stages independently of the others. The Illinois government website has a detailed breakdown of the stages. Initially, many businesses were allowed to reopen, but then the plan was modified to include "mitigation tiers," which will be implemented to fight spikes of infection. In regions seeing increased transmission rates, indoor bars and restaurants may be closed.

Chicago's Emergency Travel Order calls for anyone coming from a high-risk state to self-quarantine for 10 days or to be tested within 72 hours. The most updated list of states can be found on the Chicago government website. In November, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a stay-at-home advisory that closed indoor dining, limited gatherings and capped occupancy at gyms, shops, and movie theatres. The advisory has since been extended until January 22.

Indiana

After a doubling of case numbers in November, Gov. Eric Holcomb switched out the state's previous approach based on phases with one based on color-coded risk levels. Restrictions vary based on the severity of case numbers in each county. In orange counties, gatherings are limited to 50 people and in red counties, gatherings are limited to 25 people and local officials will be allowed to consider limiting hours of operation for bars and restaurants.

Iowa

After a period of extended restrictions limiting gatherings and requiring businesses to enforce social distancing, Gov. Kim Reynolds removed limits in mid-December and allowed bars and restaurants to return to normal business hours and in-person service with bar seating allowed.

Kansas

Kansas’s stay-at-home order expired on May 3, and the state is currently in phase three of reopening. Under this phase, all businesses may reopen under certain health and safety guidelines, and gatherings of more than 45 people are discouraged. Masks are only mandatory in some counties. Kansas has a self-quarantine mandate in place for anyone entering the state who attended a mass gathering of 500 people or greater.

Michigan

After an extended pause limiting non-essential businesses, casinos, bowling alleys, and movie theatres were allowed to reopen on December 21 at limited capacity. Bars and restaurants are open, but indoor dining is not allowed. These restrictions are likely to stay in effect until February 1, 2021.

Minnesota

Gov. Tim Walz loosened restrictions in mid-December to allow restaurants and bars to resume outdoor dining. On January 10, indoor dining and bars were allowed to open at 50 percent capacity and movie theatres will be allowed to open at 25 percent capacity.

Missouri

On June 16, 2020, Missouri entered phase two of its "Show Me Strong Recovery" plan, which lifted all statewide restrictions and allowed all businesses to open with safety procedures encouraged. All large-scale events and gatherings are also allowed. After closing indoor dining and limiting other businesses to 25 percent capacity, St. Louis County began reopening businesses in January after a reduction in cases.

Nebraska

Rising cases in October prompted Gov. Pete Ricketts to impose new rules to limit indoor gatherings and require everyone to remain seated when at a bar or restaurant. On December 23, the governor rolled back, restrictions, announcing that the state will move into the blue phase of its reopening plan. This increased the indoor gathering limit, at specified venues, to 75 percent.

North Dakota

Following a decrease in infection rates, many restrictions in North Dakota have been lifted and the statewide mask mandate has expired. However, some cities and counties still require masks to be worn. Requirements limiting business capacity have become recommendations and all businesses are open. 

Ohio

Responding to a surge in cases in November, Gov. Mike DeWine issued new health orders to limit gatherings to 10 people and enforce mask-wearing. A curfew is in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. until January 23. Travelers arriving from the high-risk states are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

South Dakota

While South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem never mandated a formal stay-at-home order, many businesses across the state chose to temporarily close, operate under special hours, or, in the case of restaurants, offer curbside pick-up and delivery. On April 29, Gov. Noem released a “back-to-normal” plan, with steps and safety procedures that businesses are encouraged to follow.

Wisconsin

After a steep rise in cases in September, all capacity limits for open businesses were reduced to 25 percent. However, this order by the governor was then knocked down by a judge on October 14 and the state is left without many public restrictions. On November 12, the governor announced a new order strongly urging people to stay home, but restrictions vary by county and municipality.

"Non-Essential" Businesses Start Re-Opening In Georgia Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
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South

Alabama

Alabama’s stay-at-home order ended as of April 30, at which time the first reopening phase under the "Safer at Home" plan began. All businesses have been able to reopen including theaters, casinos, and other entertainment venues. Alabama also saw a sharp rise in cases since the swift summer reopening and Gov. Kay Ivey extended the mask mandate until January 22. On November 5, occupancy limits were removed for retailers, gyms, and entertainment venues.

Arkansas

With cases rising in November, some sectors of the state have been shut down, but the only statewide order issued by Gov. Asa Hutchinson calls for business to stop serving alcohol by 11 p.m. Businesses that have been allowed to reopen in Arkansas with capacity limits include gyms and fitness studios, places of worship, barbers, salons, spas, restaurants for indoor dining, casinos, state park cabins, pools, lodging, and bars.

Delaware

In November, Gov. John Carney announced new restrictions that limited indoor gatherings to 10 people and reduced indoor dining capacity to 30 percent capacity or 50 people, whichever is less. Delaware has been paused in phase two of its reopening plan since June 15. The governor has expanded the mask mandate to include indoor public gatherings but lifted the curfew for restaurants and bars in January.

District of Columbia

In November, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser announced new restrictions that limited indoor gatherings to 10 people and requires alcohol to stop being served after 10 p.m. The ban on indoor dining and other restrictions have been extended until January 22.

Travelers coming from any jurisdiction with more than 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, except for visitors from Maryland and Virginia, are advised to get tested within 72 hours before traveling to Washington, D.C., and within three to five days of arrival. All visitors must also adhere to the mandatory mask policy.

Florida

Florida’s restrictions started to ease on May 4, one of the earliest states to begin reopening. Currently, the state is in phase three of reopening, which allows restaurants, museums, retail stores, gyms, and libraries to open without capacity limits. Under phase three, theme parks are allowed to return to normal operations with social distancing measures in place. Local governments, especially in large cities like Miami, may enforce further restrictions to curb high infection rates, despite disapproval from Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has neither reinstituted statewide restrictions nor issued a statewide mask mandate.

Georgia

Georgia was one of the first states to reopen on April 27. Most businesses can open for “minimum basic operations” as long as they follow social distancing and sanitation procedures. Gov. Brian Kemp initially opposed mask mandates but has since allowed cities and counties in Georgia to issue their own mandates. All retail, restaurants, hair salons, and entertainment venues like movie theaters and bowling alleys are allowed to reopen in Georgia with social distancing in place. Some areas may be taking a slower approach to reopening, such as Atlanta which only moved into the second phase of its five-phase reopening in September.

Kentucky

Since March, businesses like retail, gyms, and restaurants (at 50 percent capacity) have been allowed to open in stages. In November, Gov. Andy Beshear introduced a set of restrictions for high-risk counties which were lifted on December 14. Businesses are now allowed to return to their previous capacity limits with bars and restaurants open for indoor dining at 50 percent.

The Kentucky Department of health discourages all out of state travel and asks anyone who travels between states to quarantine for 14 days when they return to Kentucky.

Louisiana

With cases rising in November, Lousiana reverted to phase two, which limits the occupancy of restaurants to 50 percent and closes bars in parishes with infection rates higher than five percent. Gyms, retail stores, and movie theatres can stay open but are limited to 50 percent capacity. The state will remain in a modified phase two until mid-February.

Maryland

With rising cases in November, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered restaurants to reduce indoor dining to 50 percent, and in December indoor gatherings were limited to 10 people. Retail capacity is limited to 50 percent and bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m. Some counties have gone further to tighten restrictions, but further statewide restrictions are not expected. Anyone traveling from out of state is asked to get tested within 72 hours of arriving in Maryland and the governor has asked Marylanders to avoid non-essential travel.

Mississippi

All businesses in Mississippi were allowed to open on June 1 as long as they adhered to the safety measures. Following a rise in cases during the summer, Gov. Tate Reeves paused the full reopening to restrict the capacity for bars and restaurants at 75 percent. In October and November, the state reinstated the mask mandate and some additional restrictions for the majority of counties.

North Carolina

North Carolina is officially paused in phase three of its "Safer at Home" reopening plan, which had allowed most businesses to open with at least 30 percent capacity. However, a surge in cases in November prompted Gov. Roy Cooper to introduce a new color-coded system and tightened mask mandates by requiring retail businesses to enforce mask-usage. A curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. is in effect until January 29.

Oklahoma

Starting November 19, Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered restaurants and bars to enforce social distancing and close by 11 p.m. Oklahoma is in phase three of its Open Up and Recover Safely (OURS) three-part plan, which allows all businesses to open with social distancing rules required.

South Carolina

Since the spring, non-essential businesses have been reopening in stages, starting with "close contact" services, gyms, and pools, then attraction facilities, and most recently bowling alleys, all with safety measures in place. On October 2, the governor lifted all capacity limitations on restaurants, which are now allowed to operate at 100 percent. However, face masks and social distancing are still required and alcohol is not allowed to be served past 11 p.m.

Tennessee

In April, Gov. Bill Lee announced the “Tennessee Pledge,” a voluntary reopening plan that includes health and safety guidelines for businesses. Restaurants began to welcome back customers, with policies encouraging staff to wear face coverings and place tables six feet apart. Other non-contact attractions like amusement parks, water parks, theaters, and museums have reopened as well. On September 29, the governor lifted more business and gathering size restrictions while extending the state of emergency until October 30. He also empowered local governments to institute their own mask mandates. In December, the governor signed an executive order limiting public gatherings to 10 people.

Texas

As cases continue to rise in November, the state introduced new restrictions to close bars and restrict restaurants to 50 percent capacity in counties where hospital occupancy rates are at 15 percent or higher. Outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, but Gov. Greg Abbott has ruled out locking down the state. Prior to the fall surge, Texas had entered phase three of its Texans Helping Texans Plan but tightened up on some of the restrictions as cases rose in the summer.

Virginia

As of December 14, new restrictions are in place that encourage indoor mask-wearing and limits social gatherings to 10 people. Retail, restaurants, bars, hair salons, museums, gyms, and pools are still open at limited capacity. There are restrictions for out-of-state visitors arriving in Virginia and anyone arriving from a high-risk area is encouraged to self-isolate.

West Virginia

On November 16, Gov. Jim Justice updated the mask mandate to require that masks to be worn at all times when in an indoor public place. West Virginia's reopening plan is consistently being updated, but businesses that have reopened include indoor dining at restaurants, retail and malls, outdoor recreation and rentals (e.g. bikes, boats, rafts, etc.), museums, zoos, bars (at 50 percent capacity), bowling alleys, pools, casinos, movie theaters, and campgrounds.

New Jersey Beaches And Boardwalks Start To Reopen Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
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Northeast

Connecticut

In November 2020, the state reversed its plan and returned to phase two which reduced capacity limits back to 50 percent for restaurants and forces businesses to close by 9:30 p.m. Anyone coming to Connecticut from any state or territory that is not New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island must self-quarantine for 10 days and fill out a Travel Health Form.

Maine

Facing higher cases than at the start of the pandemic, a strict face mask mandate is now in effect statewide and all businesses must close by 9 p.m. Maine entered stage four of its reopening plan on October 13, which means that the cap on indoor dining increased to 50 percent or 100 hundred people, whichever is less. Although bars were set to reopen in November, Gov. Janet T. Mills has pushed back the reopening date indefinitely.

Visitors from out of state, except for those from New Hampshire and Vermont, must quarantine for 14 days upon entry or complete the Certificate of Compliance, which is to be handed in at your hotel, short-term rental, or campground. If you are quarantined, you will only be allowed to leave the campsite for no-contact outdoor activities like hiking. If a Maine resident is returning from one of the non-exempt states, they must also quarantine.

Massachusetts

In November 2020, Gov. Charlie Baker issued a new stay-at-home order which instructs everyone to stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and requires businesses to close by 9:30 p.m. New restrictions were introduced on December 26, 2020, to limit capacities across multiple businesses to 25 percent. Indoor gatherings will also be limited to 10 people. These restrictions have been extended until at least January 24.

A travel order is in effect, so if you are arriving from a high-risk state, you must fill out a travel form, provide proof of a negative test, or quarantine for 14 days. Those who don't comply may face a $500 fine.

New Hampshire

Gov. Chris Sununu began easing restrictions across the state on May 11, though a set of universal guidelines remain in place. Retail stores, barbershops, restaurants, hair salons, drive-in movie theaters, and golf courses reopened with restrictions. Amusement parks, movie theaters, and performing arts venues are also open. Travelers coming from anywhere except Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.

New Jersey

In November 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy announced new restrictions requiring bars and restaurants to close indoor service by 10 p.m. and prohibited the use of bar seating. The indoor gathering limit was later lowered to 10 people. On December 7, the governor reduced the outdoor gathering limit to 25 people. Anyone arriving in New Jersey from out of state is asked to voluntarily self-quarantine for 14 days, except for Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania.

New York

Shortly after New York's reopening in the fall, cases began to rise and select zones with high case rates were ordered to shut down businesses. These shutdowns are hyper-localized and constantly changing, so check the city's official COVID-19 Zone Finder website for the latest updates. On December 14, Gov. Andrew Cuomo shut down indoor dining in New York City and warned that he would close restaurants in other regions of hospitalization rates did not stabilize. Some restaurants in "orange zones" have been allowed to reopen.

Anyone arriving from a state that does not border New York will be required to quarantine for 10 days but will have the option of testing out. The test must be taken within three days of departing and the traveler health form must be completed online. Additionally, the traveler will still be required to self-quarantine for three days upon arrival and get tested again on the fourth day of quarantine. They will not be free to move around until that test comes back negative.

Pennsylvania

After a pause in December, indoor dining and other certified businesses are allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity. Anyone arriving in Pennsylvania from any other state is required to be tested within 72 hours before returning or must commit to a quarantine of 10 days. Failing to comply could result in a fine of up to $300.

Rhode Island

After a rise in cases in November, Gov. Gina Raimondo reduced capacity limits on indoor venues like restaurants and movie theaters at 50 percent and issued a stay-at-home advisory. After a three-week pause, businesses like movie theatres and indoor restaurants are allowed to reopen, but bars must stay closed.

If you are coming to Rhode Island from a state with a testing positivity rate of five percent or more, you will be required to self-quarantine for two weeks or provide a negative test taken within the past 72 hours. Rhode Island keeps an updated list of high-risk states on the official webpage.

Vermont

On November 13, Gov. Phil Scott announced that gatherings should be limited to a single household and restaurants must close by 10 p.m. Bars will stay closed until further notice. Anyone returning or traveling to Vermont from out of state must quarantine for two weeks or seven days if they can produce a negative test. Statewide checks will be in place to enforce the quarantine.

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez imposed curfew to contain the coronavirus spread
Jose Jimenez / Getty Images

Territories

Puerto Rico

Most businesses, including restaurants, theatres, gyms, and museums, are operating at 30 percent capacity. Bars are closed. Public beaches are open, but everyone must follow social distancing guidelines. A curfew is in effect across the island from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Anyone planning travel to Puerto Rico will need to fill out a Travel Declaration Form before they go and upload their negative test result, which should be taken within 72 hours before their trip. Health screenings will be conducted at the airport and symptomatic travelers will be tested and required to quarantine at their hotel while awaiting results.

U.S. Virgin Islands

Any traveler over the age of five, including Virgin Island residents, will be required to provide a negative test taken within five days through the official online Travel Portal, but there's no requirement to quarantine. Restaurants are open for limited indoor dining, but bars and clubs remained closed.

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  76. Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands. "Territory Reopens to Leisure Travel Visitors on Saturday." September 18, 2020.

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