Don't Make These Mistakes While Moving During the COVID-19 Pandemic
While it may not be the most advisable time to move, there are plenty of valid reasons to do so. Some have jobs they've already agreed to perform in a new state. Others are leaving states whose pandemic-related orders felt too restrictive. Traditionally, the idea of moving across the country has been fairly simple: load up the moving truck, and drive it across the country. However, many states are going to extreme lengths to prevent themselves from becoming more plagued by COVID-19.
Here's some information you should know before you go on that move. Of course, if at all possible, you should delay it until after the crisis blows over.
Yes, Some Borders Are Closed
Contrary to previous news stories and press releases that stated that "no state borders will be closed", it appears that many states have simply closed their borders to any non-residents. Orders vary broadly, and some allow those traveling to simply go through their states. Others will force you to quarantine for 14 days upon "arrival", even if you're just passing through the state.
Traffic Enforcement Changes
In general, police officers need to have "probable cause" to believe you have committed a crime or civil violation to pull you over. This is probably the area that's the most variable around the country. For example, in Tennessee, the governor formally ordered police to not pull over random people to ask where they were going to ensure their trips were considered "essential" under his previous orders. On the other hand, states like Rhode Island actively encourage police to pull over anyone they'd like to stop and demand paperwork showing the necessity of their trip.
Regardless of which states you'll need to pass through, it's always advisable to have proof such as a lease agreement on hand, just like you'd have a copy of your car insurance on-hand.
"Masks in Public" Laws
The vast majority of states do not have a law mandating that everyone wear a protective mask when in public. However, there are a few states, such as Maryland, that have a law making it a misdemeanor to not have a mask on when you're in public. What qualifies as being in public? One common example is getting out of your vehicle at a gas station. The second you step out, you're technically "in public" and would need a mask on in states that require it.
This means that you'll need to look at the laws of each state through which you intend to travel to make sure you have the proper PPE.
Remember Local Ordinances
Each state determines its own level of "home rule", or how much legal authority counties and localities have. For example, incorporated municipalities may increase or decrease speed limits without permission from a higher authority in Tennessee. In bordering Virginia, only the central state agency (VDOT) may determine and post speed limits.
Some counties and cities, mostly in very dense urban areas, have developed their own travel restrictions. Don't be fooled by maps that say a state's stay at home order "allows driving". A good example of this being misleading is the state of Arkansas. While Arkansas itself explicitly has an executive order on file saying local police cannot ban vehicular travel in itself, two of their largest localities so far have passed so-called "driving curfews", drastically limiting the hours during which vehicles can be on the road.
Staying Safe While Moving
The most unfortunate part about moving during the COVID-19 pandemic is that it's very difficult to tell whether your method, time, and means of travel are legal. Since even individual counties in some states may determine that travelers either may only be on the road certain hours or that they aren't allowed at all, there's a great deal of uncertainty. Even trusty GPS apps like Google Maps and Waze can't keep up with all the new regulations and ordinances going into effect.
The best you can do is first map out the move, then look up travel bans on each state's site. To be extra careful, you can also look up each county's site to see if they've banned travel at certain hours. It's very likely that it's possible to move almost any distance legally so long as you do the proper research before and are properly equipped in accordance with state laws.
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