My wife and I live in a major US city (Chicago) and are considering leaving for now to stay with family in a rural area a few hours away. Our reasons for this are mostly safety, seeing some of the reactions to toilet paper/groceries being low makes us both very concerned for what kind of civil unrest might happen in the coming weeks.

Our thoughts for why it would be good to go:

  • Avoid possible looting/rioting/violence
  • Emotional reasons (being with family, having more space)
  • Easier to keep distance from people with a much smaller population around you

Possible reasons to stay where we are:

  • Possibly spreading the virus (my wife has had a light cough for a few days, but no other symptoms)
  • Health organizations asking us to stay put (although we would remain inside once we got to the new place)
  • Maybe we're just overreacting and the chance of civil unrest right now is very low

I would like to know if there are any official recommendations on if this kind of travel is discouraged/forbidden, or even unofficial reasons why one option might be better than the other. Please let me know if this belongs in another network or if I should add/remove anything.


Thanks for the advice, you've all made us reconsider and we'll be staying put to not risk spreading anything.

  • 43
    With a new, albeit light, cough as a symptom, in the UK at least the instruction is for the entire household to self-isolate at home for 14 days. So no travel to your relatives until you’re sure you’re not taking an unwelcome guest along with you.
    – Traveller
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 16:32
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    A further consideration is that you are unlikely to be the only person to come up with this plan. There have been news reports in the UK today of three separate "isolated" areas seeing a large influx of "vistors," and creating new potential hotspots for transmission.
    – alephzero
    Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 2:25
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    @alephzero Plus extra pressure on local health services and food supplies apple.news/ABEGafcV5Tv6czs2rUPXPzA
    – Traveller
    Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 8:06
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    "Avoid possible looting/rioting/violence" - sorry but is this a real concern in the US? Here (Israel) covid is bad, and it's also really bad all around the world - as far as I know no looting is occuring and people are showing solidarity and strength. Is the US vibe different? Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 12:46
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    A factor in your determination would be the availability of health services where you are going. I would think that going from the city to rural would make outcomes more extreme (i.e. if you end up needing care, it'll be much worse - but if you end up NOT needing care, it'll be easier). Any city health care system is likely to be less overwhelmed than a rural one - given the same rate of infection. (rural health care is usually underdimensioned and city health care centers will be first in line for federal / military aid)
    – Stian
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 8:28

5 Answers 5


Travel of this sort is either permitted or it's not. If there are restrictions on travel in your area you should follow them. If there are not then it's allowed.

For example, if you were in Italy or France on this day (March 21 2020) then such travel would be forbidden - it's not essential travel. As I understand it there are no restrictions on internal travel in the US - but that's the situation today and it could be different tomorrow.

You should also listen to the advice of medical professional about what is discouraged. Anything you do that increases contact increases the chance of spreading Covid-19 is going to make the overall situation worse - and most kinds of travel will result in increased contact. If your medical professionals are asking you not to travel unnecessarily, don't do it.

  • 52
    Good answer. I would just add that anybody doing this is being rather selfish. You might already have the virus without knowing it, due to the long incubation time before symptoms show, and that means that you will spread it to remote communities where medical facilities are not as well advanced and not able to cope as well. As you may also then suffer due to the same reasons. Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 17:21
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    @jason.kaisersmith Thanks, you're right and it would be selfish of us. We've decided to stay where we are like pretty much everyone is advocating.
    – wearebob
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 21:14
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    There are no nationwide restrictions restrictions on internal travel in the US, but some parts of the country have already imposed such restrictions locally. In fact, according to the other answer, Illinois is already under a restriction.
    – David Z
    Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 9:51
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica The problem is not risk of them spreading the virus during the actual travel. The risk is that they would create a new hot spot by bringing the virus to a previously isolated area. It seems to be possible for someone with no symptoms, or very minimal symptoms, to be contagious. Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 15:06
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica Another problem is that the place you are going to has an amount of health care scaled to the normal number of residents. If people move to other places they couild overwhelm the he4ath system. See quotes from Doctors in Wales, Cornwall, Scotland etc.
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 21:43

The question asks "I would like to know if there are any official recommendations on if this kind of travel is discouraged/forbidden, or even unofficial reasons why one option might be better than the other."

In the US, travel and similar restrictions are being handled mainly by state and local governments. Chicago is in Illinois.

The State of Illinois has prohibited non-essential travel. See EXECUTIVE ORDER IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19 (COVID-19 EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 8).

"All travel, including, but not limited to, travel by automobile, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, train, plane, or public transit, except Essential Travel and Essential Activities as defined herein, is prohibited."

The various essential activities listed in the order do not seem to me to cover leaving Chicago to stay with relatives or to avoid potential civil unrest.

  • You're allowed to leave to go take care of family members.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 21:29
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    @JonathanReez It would indeed be different if the question had been about going to take care of the relatives. Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 21:32
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    @JonathanReez: indeed, that would work only if the OP lied. Anyway, he has decided to stay, so the point is moot. Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 2:59
  • @QuoraFeans Could be less a lie than a true and exploitable side effect. Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 14:21
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica In practice, stay at home and travel ban orders would be somewhere between extremely difficult and impossible to enforce. Lives depend on responsible people like the OP deciding to follow them anyway. Commented Mar 22, 2020 at 14:42

In Norway people have done exactly this, and now the military is forcing people to return to their homes. They argued, that healthcare in rural areas is minimal or nonexistent, and that if the people get sick later, they will either overrun the rural healthcare centers, or not get treatment at all.

Coronavirus: Norwegians told to leave countryside cabins and return home

“Go Home!” Norway PM Orders Norwegians to Leave Mountain Cabins

  • 2
    Same in several more European countries.
    – Willeke
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 9:09
  • 1
    Both articles say the government "will deploy the civil defence to bring people home from their cabins if necessary", but neither of them says "now the military is forcing people to return to their homes" as you claim. I suggest either editing your answer or providing additional sources to back your claim.
    – JBentley
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 17:22
  • I couldn't find English articles that used those exact words, because I first read about it in a Finnish newspaper, and then Googled for English articles to be linked here.
    – Teemu
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 11:21
  • In the USA some states are requiring anyone from New York (and sometimes Louisiana) to self-isolate for 14 days. I agree with the Norwegian military, because I know from experience that entire large counties in the USA may have very little medical infrastructure (e. g. no MRI, no intensive care), so if someone did get a serious case of COVID-19 they'd have to be driven right back to the metropolitan area they just fled.
    – CarlF
    Commented Mar 30, 2020 at 15:52

If you do, self-isolate for 14 days before getting close to family.

Don't be "that guy" - you know the one. The selfish one who becomes the "index patient" for that county.

Treat it just the same as New Zealand is treating visitors. Can you go on a 6-week grand tour of the Lord of the Rings filming sites and all of NZ's wonders? Welcome with open arms -- but you'll be spending the first 14 days sequestered in a hotel room.

They have the right idea. Do that.

If your rural friends have a lick of sense, they'll make you do that anyway. Unfortunately many people do not have a lick of sense, and in the moment of hello, are far more concerned with being viewed as disapproving or stand-off-ish, and cannot resist going in for that hug.

So I wouldn't even see the family until day 15 and would stay in a hotel. Unless they really get it, and have a fully isolated in-law apartment they can toss you into.

Don't trust the country, either

Also don't go assuming everyone in the country is immune. You're not the only one doing this. You could sit out the 14 days and feel safe being all hugs... and unbeknownst to you 2 days earlier your family spent time with the Joneses who made contact 2 days prior with "that guy".

Operating on emotion will not work (wishful thinking, fear, etc). Operating on science, fact and unflinching care is the only reliable thing. And that's hard enough when you have to cat-herd a whole family into good practices they don't really believe in.

One more thing. Guns. There are lots of guns out there. Either don't touch them, or go all-in, learning gun safety, especially gun law (rules of engagement), then gun self-defense (guns are not an "I win button") - and squeeze off bare minimum 300 rounds among at least 5 trips to the range.

  • Self isolating in a mountain cabin with 3 months foods, a gun for hunting, and having zero contact with other people is probably the safest place to be at the moment. Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 10:04
  • Nitpicking: learning safe gun practice while in isolation is IMHO going to be very hard as the isolation means that there cannot be anyone standing with you at the range (or backyard if that's a possibility there) and yell at you as soon as you start doing something that is not safe. Self-defense even more so. Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 19:54
  • @cbeleites yeah, it would have to be after isolation. Hopefully the desperation/roving gangs/Mad Max can wait 14 days+range time. Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 20:18
  • The guy is in Chicago. He is not going to be able to go out and buy a gun if he doesn't have one already. He needs an FOID card before he can purchase there. And those take months to get nowadays. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 3:16
  • @BillyC. I'm more thinking guns lent by their host. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 4:49

Let's suppose you succeed in getting away to your family living a few hours distant.

Have you stopped to consider the probable reaction of others in the community there. Things have got very nasty in the Scottish Highlands in relation to numerous campervans and motorhomes coming from England to escape the Coronavirus, overwhelming the limited food resources in a time of shortage, causing a health hazard as campsites have been closed by government order, and potentially overhwhelming overstressed medical facilities in a remote and scattered area. You can probably expect a violent reaction from many of the locals.

  • The New York Times is reporting similar reception in Florida and other areas where people from New York City and its suburbs have been going to stay in their weekend homes, in their vacation homes, with friends and relatives, etc.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 3:25

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