Travelers to Washington State from countries where a new strain of the novel coronavirus is circulating must quarantine for 14 days after arrival. On December 21, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee announced quarantine requirements for individuals arriving from the United Kingdom and South Africa. Others may be added to the list of countries. The COVID strain, SARS-CoV-2 variant 501Y.V, while not more deadly, is believed to be more transmissible.

The quarantine requirement is retroactive to December 7, 2020. "Quarantine" means limiting interactions to the immediate household. The quarantine is mandatory and legally binding, but the state is anticipating substantial levels of compliance without imposing tracking or enforcement measures. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SeaTac) has not imposed any arrival restrictions on individuals from the countries or any screening, reporting, tracking or notification procedures.

The only exempt employees are flight crew. There is no exemption listed for essential work. During the 14-day quarantine, individuals may leave their house for necessary health care services and to obtain necessary supplies, including groceries and medications for their family or household members, including pets.

Since November 13, 2020, Washington has advised but not required all individuals arriving in the state from anywhere, including returning Washington residents, to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Guidance is changing rapidly. We advise all employers to consult with counsel before making personnel decisions, particularly those involving sick leave, in response to employees who travel outside the state for personal reasons during the ongoing COVID pandemic.

The facts, laws, and regulations regarding COVID-19 are developing rapidly. Since the date of publication, there may be new or additional information not referenced in this advisory. Please consult with your legal counsel for guidance.

DWT will continue to provide up-to-date insights and virtual events regarding COVID-19 concerns. Our most recent insights, as well as information about recorded and upcoming virtual events, are available at