What are the obstacles to driving across the US during Covid?
May 26, 2020 5:24 AM   Subscribe

A friend wants to drive from the East Coast to the West Coast around August 1. I'm not convinced this is a good idea, but don't really have any hard data. What states (if any) have restrictions on out-of-state travel, self-quarantine and so forth?

So my friend moved to California (from Boston) last Fall as a "trial run" to see if he would like it. Turns out he did, so he bought a place there, moved his stuff via Amtrak freight, and had all intentions of driving his car across country in April. That did not happen as he has been quarantined on the East Coast since March and he's trying to figure out when/if he can make the trip. Right now his plans are to leave Boston in August.

I'm primarily looking for objective data on individual state policies that restrict out-of-state travel, but here is a bit of other background based on our conversations:
  • I mentioned that hotel stays would be required and it's unclear if those would be open or if out-of-state visitors are allowed. He responded that he is fine camping out in parks, etc. Again, it's unclear if even parks are actually open now (or will be in August).
  • I mentioned that there are services that you can hire to drive your car across the country, (although it strikes me that this poses logistical and ethical issues. A human still needs to drive a car).
  • I suggested just selling his car here and buying a new one in CA, but he's attached to this particular vehicle, so no.
Basically I'm looking for data I can use to support the fact I think this a really bad idea. Said friend does respond to reason and logic, I just don't think he's done the research and is in a bit of a bubble when it comes to the reality of driving across covid-land.
posted by jeremias to Travel & Transportation (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Car-moving services load your car on a car-carrier trailer with a bunch of other cars and drive them to the new destination. So it's a guy driving a truck, mostly, not driving your car.

He still has to get himself from Boston to California, even if he ships the car. I don't see a transportation option that's less COVID-risky than driving himself, really.

But the main thing is that it's not really possible to predict what August will be like. He will probably be able to make this trip. He could probably make this trip now, though eg. in Tennessee most of the restrictions still in place apply to the more-populated counties, so he might not be able to stay in Memphis or Nashville.

The other thing is that when you get out west it's a loooong way between towns, so you'd better hope they're open. They probably are, because truckers, but he should plan to call ahead before setting off to book accommodations for each day rather than assuming he'll be able to roll in and get something day-of.

Here's the CDC. There have been restrictions in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Texas, and Florida, though they are probably not if effect, and specifically less-likely to be an issue for thru-travelers. Anyway, he can choose his route to avoid this.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:46 AM on May 26, 2020 [7 favorites]

What's the alternative you propose though? If your friend has already bought a place in California and moved all the rest of his stuff there, at some point he will need to make the move. There's no compelling reason to think that later in the year, like fall or winter will be better to make this move, and some reasons to think it might be worse (seasonality impacts, impact of more months of loosened restrictions). Then it comes down to doing it via a flight or by driving. There are arguments on both sides for that - I think the risk of being exposed to infected people is likely greater on a flight and in airports if he really can camp as he suggests.
posted by peacheater at 5:46 AM on May 26, 2020 [18 favorites]

Oh, hey, apart from COVID, I would not want to camp anywhere in the western, say, 2/3 of the USA in August. It will be incredibly hot.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:51 AM on May 26, 2020 [8 favorites]

I think you're probably overestimating the logistical hurdles your friend will face, and this might not be the best way to convince him. Many states are requiring visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days (especially if they're arriving from a place with widespread COVID, which Boston of course is at the moment), but I think they mostly have exceptions for people who are passing through (i.e. often the quarantine period is "14 days or the duration of your visit, whichever is shorter"). And moving homes is generally considered "essential." Here's a recent rundown of travel restrictions by state. The quarantine duration issue might not even be relevant because as of right now it looks like with just a bit of unusual spacing out of your driving days you could make the whole drive without stopping in any states with travel restrictions.

Mid-day bathroom breaks would be a bit trickier, but I suspect your friend will just say he can pee in a bottle or on the side of the road.
posted by mskyle at 5:52 AM on May 26, 2020 [7 favorites]

NPR has lists of restrictions by state: Northeast, Midwest, South, West. There don't appear to be many states that still have restrictions on hotels (the only ones I could find were Maine, Vermont, Arkansas, and New Mexico), and right now the trend is to loosen restrictions. More states require a 14-day self-quarantine but that's generally for people staying, not just passing through.

I would think that driving is less dangerous than flying in terms of amount of exposure. If camping isn't an option, I don't think there's been particular spread through hotels - my impression is that hotels are closing not because they're dangerous but because states wanted to discourage travel. I don't think food will be a problem - grocery stores will be open because people everywhere have to eat.

The big question is whether things will be different on August 1 than they are now. I don't think there's a particular reason to expect it will be better or worse then. (I think it is quite likely that governments will be acting as if it's better, but that's a different story.)
posted by madcaptenor at 5:54 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I think a lot of the risk depends on what kind of amenities your friend plans on using. Multiple stops at hotels and restaurants is going to be much riskier than camping/sleeping at rest stops and eating out of a cooler you restock from a grocery store.

There’s no risk-free way to get from MA to CA right now, and there won’t be for a while. Driving might be the easiest way to travel while controlling risk factors.
posted by gnutron at 6:07 AM on May 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

If he plans to camp, he should talk to the campgrounds and make sure they're allowing non-RV campers. I moved from Ohio to Colorado in April and slept in my car instead of staying at hotels. I'd planned to use campgrounds for the safety factor, but the first one cancelled my reservation because the state wasn't allowing anyone to camp unless they had a bathroom in their vehicle. I ended up sleeping in a Bass Pro parking lot that night (call ahead for that too, they had no problem with it) and it was fine. The second state where I stayed overnight had no such restrictions and I stayed at a KOA.
posted by Tek at 6:14 AM on May 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

A friend of mine moved from Boston to California a few weeks ago, for work. Yes in the middle of the pandemic but "for work" is one of the exceptions in California.

He decided to ship his car and fly. Flying *feels* less safe but if you consider the total time for exposure on a non-stop flight, it's a lot shorter. Airports and flights are not full and everyone is masked. He quarantined for 14 days on both ends.
posted by muddgirl at 6:21 AM on May 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

truck stops etc are open all thru oklahoma, and i am starting to see cars parked at hotels as guests as well. People camped at the state park close by over the weekend. There are hot spots in the panhandle (meat packing plant - stay away from there) and of course the metro areas have more cases, but there are many counties such as the one i live in with no active cases. If he plans ahead, i don't think he will have a problem. Eat at drive thrus in the car.

the reality here right now is not the same as it has been for people in say NYC or Boston.

so if he's headed to southern california and taking the i 40 route, it can be done.
posted by domino at 6:23 AM on May 26, 2020

I don't know if there is any clear epidemiological consensus yet or not, but driving seems like you would have fewer indoor, person-to-person contacts than if you flew (where you go through airport security and then sit on a plane for hours, potentially close to lots of people). But that is going to depend on the specifics of your route, your flight options, etc., and might not be as clear-cut as it seems at first glance.

People I know just did a similar east/west drive a couple of weeks ago (following a different route, but almost as long). They had considered sleeping in their car, but found that hotels are up and running, and that everywhere they stopped appeared to have good covid-related protocols in place (eg cleaning, check-ins, etc). Obviously restaurants are mostly not open for sit-down service, but takeout and grocery stores are, as well as truck stops. Highway rest stops were open in all the states they went through, but your friend would need to check that for each state on his exact route. State and national parks are still not open in quite a few states, so that may not be as workable of a plan (and you are still going to interact with shared bathrooms etc, so I'm not sure you would gain a whole lot).

Personally I would just go ahead and make the drive, being careful about where I stopped and trying to have the most minimal possible direct interactions with other people. I doubt things will be a lot better in August and we are past the uncertainty and total shut downs that were happening in March (for better or worse), so I don't see a compelling reason to wait.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:42 AM on May 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

As someone who's been very opposed to all travel, early August by car is probably the best way to do this move. What the country will look like at that point is completely impossible to tell, but it does seem that hotels are doing deep-cleans between guests and at least a day in between stays.

Rather than give barriers to your friend, I'd look for suggestions that would make the trip safer. While exactly how this will look in August is unclear, I'd think the following would be good moves regardless of specifics at that time:

-Wait to finalize the route until the week of, since if any new hot spots are appearing they could be avoided.
-Have someone who can give your friend updates about any news along the anticipated route.
-Hotel vs. campground: A hotel may be more sanitary (full shower, not sharing facilities,
-Get drive-through/curbside pickup rather than dining-in.
-Stock up on snack food and easy temperature-safe meals for at least the first few days -- even bringing a cooler for food/bev could increase risk because it will need to be filled with ice.
-Stock up on extra masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, soap, and gallons of water before the trip to maximize protection during the trip and minimize the number of public restrooms.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:59 AM on May 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

Backing up what DoubleLune said, regarding good advice assuming your friend is going to do it, I'd say plan to stay as far north as possible just for the temperature alone. And once he gets out of the Great Plains, use elevation to his advantage - I've seen summer snow at 10,000 feet.
posted by notsnot at 7:19 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Basically I'm looking for data I can use to support the fact I think this a really bad idea. Said friend does respond to reason and logic, I just don't think he's done the research and is in a bit of a bubble when it comes to the reality of driving across covid-land.

When I was in college and would go visit my mom a few states away, and she didn't want me to do something, she would inevitably have some reason. A few days before my planned departure, she would start telling me about the major snowstorm approaching or somesuch. The reality was, if it was snowing really badly the day before or day of, I would have cancelled my trip, but a week or two in advance was too far away to predict a snowstorm. Similarly, I'm not sure how you or your friend can say with any confidence what August will be like.

I was quite surprised recently to learn that some friends of mine who live in Nevada were on a car trip to near Seattle. They've hardly been out at all since shelter-in-place began because they didn't want to take any risks... but also felt comfortable doing this drive. And apparently it's been fine. I'm not saying we should all be doing this, not at all. But it might be possible to do a long road trip safely.

I think when this all started, I also had a lot of fears of the unknown. I rode my bike about a mile from a friend's house to home a week or two into it all--this is a ride I would often do at that time of day and on that route and feel totally fine doing it--and all of a sudden I was terrified, as if I was in a horror movie. I kept waiting for some monster to jump out in front of me. But that ride was really not all that different from every other time.

These past two months, people have continued to do longer drives. Some have slept in their cars, but they've been able to get gas and snacks along the way.

There's a lot of time between now and August. If it's not okay for your friend to make the drive, then that will become more apparently closer to then. But it might also be fine. If your friend is moving, I would encourage you to be as supportive as possible and try to keep your fears to yourself. If he's ready to move, he's ready to move.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:22 AM on May 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

I think August is probably the safest time to do this, as we're likely to see a second wave in the fall. That's when I'm planning my own long but neccessary drive from California to BC (if the border is open, as I hope it will be by then).

I'm on the 'driving is safer side'. Planes have recirculated air, and people will be taking masks off to eat and drink on the flight, if not just as soon as the flight attendants sit down.

And remember, the virus isn't widespread in every single place everywhere. A lot of rural areas have barely seen it, so planning a route through these areas is his best bet.

I say this to make you feel better, and I hope you do, because it sounds like your friend hasnt asked for advice or help deciding. You cant force him to make the choice you want, and sometimes we just have to let people do their thing even if we disagree. My mom,
who also doesnt listen to logic or reason, is inviting a friend to stay with her in a few weeks who is flying in from Florida. I think this is a terrible idea but she's set on it and arguing is only going to upset her and not change her mind. I wish it were otherwise but you might have to let this go.
posted by ananci at 7:38 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm a bit surprised by those who think flying would be safer - you could realistically make the whole drive without ever being in the same room with another human being, assuming you use drive-through windows for food (or pack a cooler/camp meals from home) and stay in garden-style motels (ideally the kind with a plexiglass window for check-in/out). Whereas if you fly you're spending ~8 hours on a plane plus a minimum of 2-3 hours in airports with dozens-to-hundreds of people. Obviously we don't know everything yet but spending time in enclosed spaces with people seems to be the #1 way the virus is transmitted.

Even if you're very concerned about fomite/surface transmission you could give every motel room a good clean when you get there and even air it out for an hour or two.
posted by mskyle at 8:20 AM on May 26, 2020 [11 favorites]

If he's really committed to doing this and doing it in a way that reduces contact as much as possible, he could probably manage this by bringing all food/water and doing dispersed camping at national forests or other land managed by BLM all the way. As noted above, the weather would be brutal if he's traveling, say, from Miami to San Diego, but if it's Boston to Seattle, it's doable.
posted by benbenson at 8:24 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

It looks like epidemiologists are beginning to coalesce around airborne droplet transmission being the most effective and concentration/viral load of those droplets being the risk multiplier, which means airports (and airplanes, if you lose the gamble and it's a full flight rather than an empty one, both things seem to be happening simultaneously) where people spend hours at a time in a closed ventilation loop/unavoidable ventilation airflow is probably sketchier than brief trips into grocery stores and gas stations masked with handwashing.

The real dice-roll (aside from the country being locked down similarly to the UK's previous restrictions on traveling any distance from your home if you're not rich) will be accommodation. He may have no choice but to sleep in-car in truck stop parking lots, which will probably be the last to close if it gets that bad (but might close to passenger cars, if there are non-commercial travel restrictions). To that end, I agree the Northern route is a better pick, as the weather will be more amenable.

I would not count on BLM/state/national land, at least the areas within reasonable access of his travel route, being available to use. The full-time RVers I know of are mostly avoiding it, fearing sudden closures and safety concerns both of the "what if I get sick suddenly" and "these are unusual circumstances and I don't feel as safe as I normally would" variety. Dispersed camping areas by later this summer may also end up being the only place unhoused people with vehicles can go for any length of time, and that population will be exploding by that point, and I suspect that's going to go badly as various law enforcement agencies do the things they do in response to that.

Shipping the car and flying would only be my choice if it was obvious the window of free movement was closing, and then I'd only do it in a real respirator mask and goggles that are never removed, resigned to not eat or drink for the duration of travel.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:35 AM on May 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Staying in the northern part of the country until he gets to the west coast then heading south will make the trip far more endurable, though a couple days longer. There will be many more amenities available and should he have a mishap (shit does happen) it is easier to be stranded when it's not 120F+ outside with zero shade for miles. August is a very bad time to travel in the desert if you don't have a lot of backup plans.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:37 AM on May 26, 2020 [6 favorites]

I'm on the 'driving is safer side'. Planes have recirculated air, and people will be taking masks off to eat and drink on the flight, if not just as soon as the flight attendants sit down.

I'm a bit surprised by those who think flying would be safer - you could realistically make the whole drive without ever being in the same room with another human being, assuming you use drive-through windows for food (or pack a cooler/camp meals from home) and stay in garden-style motels (ideally the kind with a plexiglass window for check-in/out). Whereas if you fly you're spending ~8 hours on a plane plus a minimum of 2-3 hours in airports with dozens-to-hundreds of people. Obviously we don't know everything yet but spending time in enclosed spaces with people seems to be the #1 way the virus is transmitted.

I just wanted to push back a little on the notion that planes are definitely less safe than driving - honestly, it's debatable and probably depends a lot on the specifics of the trips (how long the flights are vs. the drive, how many people you're actually seated next to, whether you really are able to avoid contacts on the drive). Here is an excerpt from a piece by biology professor Erin Bromage, the same one who became known for that The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them post.

A plane is a seriously enclosed space, with little air volume, and you are there for an extended period. It appears to have all of the parameters needed for outbreak calamity. But there is a big difference with planes compared to other enclosed spaces because planes have substantial air-filtration and air-exchange.

On modern Boeing planes (others may be the same), the entire air volume of the cabin is exchanged with outside air every 4 to 5 minutes (12 to 15 cabin air exchanges per hour). Additionally, the cabin air is filtered through a HEPA filtration system 25-30 times per hour (Ref)

As a point of reference:
HEPA Filters: are required to capture 99.97% of all particles >0.3 micrometers.
N95 respirators: are required to capture 95% of all particles >0.3 micrometers

So the HEPA filters in a plane have a higher filtering capacity than the N95 masks doctors and nurses are wearing when they are caring for COVID-19 patients. Granted, the respirators filter 100% of inhaled air, but the point is, aircraft have a substantial air filtration capacity.

It's not quite as simple as planes are enclosed spaces, therefore by definition worse. Here's the link to the entire post if you're interested. That said, in this situation, it still seems like you're safer driving, if you really can camp and limit interactions, but that may not always be the case.
posted by peacheater at 8:41 AM on May 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

Here’s how I’m thinking about this, as someone who also will likely need to make a Boston to California trip soon.

On the flying vs driving safety issue...it’s worth keeping in mind that driving is *much* more dangerous than flying on a commercial airline under non-pandemic conditions.

If you’re trying to minimize your risk of death and injury for any reason during your cross-country trip - not solely from COVID-19 - than flying is still the overall safer choice by a wide margin.

If you drive, you’re inevitably going to have to trade a greatly elevated risk of dying in a car accident for a (theoretically, not guaranteed !) reduced risk of catching the virus.
posted by faineg at 8:42 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Things may change by August. If he has a very reliable car he can comfortably sleep in, this is doable though not recommended. It's roughly 45 hours of road time, and few people can do more than 10 hours a day safely; many people can't drive 10 hours a day safely. Tired driving is really dangerous. He could look for a passenger/driver, which is a whole different question, but the drive time is way better. There are likely motels open along the road, theoretically sanitizing well and letting rooms rest for 24 hours. The virus doesn't survive well on fabrics, so the risk isn't high. He should plan to stay in a motel once or twice so he can have a shower and good sleep.

I would bring several gallons' worth of water for washing and drinking. Empty detergent jugs work for washing water. Foaming hand soap, hand sanitizer, spray bottle of sanitizer and wipes, and baby wipes. Spray or squirt bottles are easy for soapy water for washing. Getting drive-thru food and coffee is low risk. I'd pack fresh and dried fruit, granola bars, nuts, bottled water and iced tea, other healthy snacks.

I would say he has an obligation to quarantine before he leaves and after he arrives, unless things have changed a lot in August. He should Wear A Mask. In many areas of the country, people are not wearing masks, but it's dumb; he'll be on major travel routes. Flying requires many indoor spaces full of people who travel, as well as planes. This trip is non-essential travel; he should assess things carefully in mid-July. It's a Pandemic, it's serious, we're all living strange disrupted lives and missing out on a lot. Unless he really has to move, it's not recommended.
posted by theora55 at 9:27 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

How often does he need a car? Can he keep it in storage and use transit/cabs/Lyft for necessary trips until travel conditions are safer?
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:53 AM on May 26, 2020

Unless he's cool with car sleeping or backcountry camping, he needs to make campground reservations like... now. I can't count the number of people who have decided "cool, this will finally be the summer I camp and RV out west, it'll be so much safer!!" Any sort of place with facilities is going to be packed, and I bet even BLM lands are going to sadly get wrecked.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:05 AM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Depending on what parks he means, too.... a lot of parks aren't exactly off the interstate. He needs to add the travel time to FIND a place to camp,and he needs to carry a shit-ton of water. Has he ever driven through the western US? We did this in 2017, and I was humbled, even on state highways, at how desolate it is.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:09 AM on May 26, 2020

Where is he going in California? If it's San Francisco, for example, I'd argue it's easier to live there without a car, in which case selling it and flying might make sense. I may make a similar move in the opposite direction this summer, and I'm still undecided on the best way to travel. It's a very long drive. If there's a serious heat wave like there was last summer, it could be pretty unbearable. But otherwise, I agree with some others that it's probably a better option than flying (are you hoping that he'll decide to fly?).
posted by pinochiette at 10:50 AM on May 26, 2020

By the time he spends all the money on what is likely to be a weeklong cross country trip, he could probably buy 2 or even 3 seats on a flight to make sure no one is sitting right next to him. Honestly, I'd consider it.
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:11 PM on May 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I would feel comfortable doing this trip, unless I was very high-risk for CoViD-19.

I'd feel totally fine about eating take-out restaurant food (there's really no evidence of food-borne transmission) - and, to push back on some other suggestions, I would be staying at hotels versus camping, trying to book fairly-nice places run by national chains. I would guess that those hotels would be the ones most likely to be taking thoughtful and serious hygiene precautions. My strong suspicion is that any extra infection risk would be more than offset by being a safer and more alert driver after a good night's rest.
posted by kickingtheground at 12:56 PM on May 26, 2020 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: These are all great data points everyone thanks! Someone asked where in California and the answer is San Diego. Selling the car is not an option, although storing still it may be.

Someone else also mentioned how this is basically "non-essential" travel, and this is very much my opinion as well, although I realize this is a gray area these days.

He also wants to attach a small trailer/camper to the car (despite not having any experience driving said vehicle) and all I'm thinking of is all those state troopers watching a car with Massachusetts plates and a trailer driving by.

Those list of restrictions by state were very helpful as well, thanks for that.
posted by jeremias at 1:44 PM on May 26, 2020

My brother moved from Seattle to Virginia a month ago and drove over the course of 8 days.

He camped the first half (dispersed camping in national forests) and stayed in hotels the second half. He said hotels were fine, but empty. Truck stops were open, gas stations were open, limited options for food (no dine in anywhere at the time), the KOAs were full of RVs, roads were pretty quiet. He said the truck stops and gas stations would allow you in to use the bathroom. Lots of hand sanitizer, extra supplies in the car, etc. If you're driving through empty country (like where gas stations are 80 miles apart), plan ahead.

Is it great to move right now? No. Is it optional for your friend? I don't know.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 3:09 PM on May 26, 2020

Honestly, a lot of it depends on how attached he is to doing things (luxuries, imo) like staying in hotels/motels, and eating other-than-drive-thru. Is he really JUST moving the vehicle?

For example: Me and one other adult needed to get a vehicle from the midwest to the northwest last fall, and did it in three days despite 1) he wouldn't let me drive on the way there, despite that being the plan, to speed up the trip. 2) He was determined to stay in lodging, despite me being perfectly happy to sleep in the car. 3) We ran into bad weather going across I80... yuck. (Same person has done cross-country in 3-4 days multiple times a year as the sole driver with a carload of kids and a really irritating adult non-driving passenger, and often has to drive very long trips for work, so is used to long drives.)

If it were me, alone, moving a vehicle, I'd be content to load the vehicle, stock up on drinks and snacks, stash a blanket and a pillow in the car, and sleep in interstate rest stops, truck stops, and Walmart parking lots. All I'd need is intermittent bathroom breaks. I don't even enjoy driving, and I'm sure I could do it in 4-5, while getting plenty of sleep. I'd just be a bit stiff at the end of it.

In other words - if his purpose is MOVE THE VEHICLE, it's no big deal. If he purpose is stay in hotels, dine-in at restaurants, sight-see and shop as he meanders across the country... it's going to be a problem.
posted by stormyteal at 5:35 PM on May 26, 2020

What do you mean non-essential? He now lives in San Diego and is stuck in Boston, getting home sounds pretty essential.

So he either flies or drives and, as someone who flew at the height of Covid (out of Venice! On the days when it all came crashing down for northern Italy!) it’s going to be a long long time before I feel safe on a plane full of coughing people again.

Avoiding as much contact with other humans and driving seems dramatically safer than flying, unless you are planning on convincing him to stay in Boston entirely? Because that also sounds unreasonable.
posted by lydhre at 6:42 PM on May 26, 2020 [8 favorites]

Here is the most recent San Diego County public health order (effective 5/27/2020), which I don't think has been referenced yet. As far as I can tell, it doesn't say anything about travel into the county for the purpose of returning home.

For comparison, the current Alameda County public health order (5/18/2020) defines allowable "Essential Travel" as including "Travel to return to a place of residence from outside the County" (under Section 15, Definitions and Exemptions). The FAQ says
If I’m outside the county travelling for vacation or business, am I allowed to return home?
Yes, the Order allows you to come home.
For context, Alameda County was one of the first six counties to enact stay-at-home orders, before the statewide order.
posted by Lexica at 7:42 PM on May 26, 2020

With more than two months to go, it isn't obviously a really bad idea. It's probably do-able but not ideal. If things change that might be different. I think the only thing I'd be pushing is being able to make a late decision that he isn't going to go right then. So, not getting super entrenched in the idea to prove people wrong, not burning bridges at work, not breaking an apartment lease, etc until the last minute. And that's more 'just in case' there's a second wave and he gets stuck again.
posted by plonkee at 11:03 AM on May 27, 2020

Buzzfeed recently published an article with quotes from public health experts about public restrooms, with this memorable turn of phrase: "You’re basically kind of going in, to use a cute term, 'a bioweapons factory' — so there is no safe. There's only things you can do to mitigate risk," and earlier published an article titled Here’s What Public Health Experts Think Our Pandemic Summer Will Look Like (May 9, 2020), which notes "a related wild card in the course of the pandemic in the US is how Americans choose to behave."

How people behave may change as the coronavirus invades Trump country, and this may present new kinds of obstacles for travelers, including quarantine and stay-at-home orders. Overall, it seems likely that we will continue to have what Ed Yong describes in the Atlantic on May 20, 2020 as a patchwork pandemic, noting "the coronavirus is coursing through different parts of the U.S. in different ways, making the crisis harder to predict, control, or understand."

Instead of looking for hard data, it may be easier to ask your friend to consider the obstacle of how much we don't and can't know (Ed Yong, Atlantic, Apr. 29, 2020), as well as the potential consequences, both to your friend and the communities they may interact with, as compared to the nonessential rewards they seek from this trip (especially if lower-risk options (USA Today) exist).
posted by katra at 8:25 PM on May 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

Also, OP, as a quick follow up after reviewing your question a little more carefully, I wanted to note that I'm responding to your framing about what seems like a 'nonessential' desire for a specific car, and I encourage you to keep an open mind as to other more 'essential' reasons your friend may have for needing to leave Boston this way, because you may not have all of the information about your friend's situation, and all of the data and logic and reasoning in the world about potential obstacles may not change their mind about something they feel that they have to do.
posted by katra at 8:43 PM on May 27, 2020

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