NEW YORK — Travelers must self-quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in New York from states with high coronavirus transmission and positive testing rates, officials said, otherwise they will be subject to fines or other penalties.
As a COVID-19 surge sweeps through 27 states and Puerto Rico, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y.; Gov. Phil Murphy, D-N.J.; and Gov. Ned Lamont, D-Conn., imposed a tri-state order mandating a two-week self-quarantine for travelers who fly or arrive in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut from states with more than a 10% positive coronavirus test rate over a seven-day average.
The advisory goes into effect at midnight Thursday, and applies to both out-of-state and in-state residents. As of Wednesday, travelers from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, the Carolinas, Washington, Utah and Texas are expected to self-quarantine when arriving in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut.
“It’s just common sense,” Cuomo said during a pandemic briefing Wednesday in his Manhattan office. “If you’re in a place that has a high infection rate, we don’t want to see the infection rate increase here. We worked very hard to get the virus transmission rate down. We now have to make sure the rate continues to drop.
“It’s the spirit of community,” the governor added.
The quarantine policy is uniform across the three states, but each state is responsible for enforcing the policy.
“We have taken these three states to hell and back,” Murphy said. “The last thing we need to do is subject our folks to another round. If you’ve been in a state that has a high infection rate, do the right thing. Take 14 days to self-quarantine. It’s the responsible thing to do.”
The quarantine is an advisory, Cuomo said, and will be enforced through local officials and people with whom travelers may interact, such as hotel clerks. Airlines, airports and related businesses will be informed about the quarantine.
“The virus may come here by jet airplane, but it won’t leave here by jet airplane,” Lamont added. “This is what we’ve got to do to make sure our regions stay safe and make sure we can get our schools and businesses back to operating this fall.”
Cuomo suggested an example where a police officer stops a Florida vehicle and inquires about the passengers’ required quarantine. People who violate the advisory will be subject to a judicial order and mandatory quarantine, where a state Health Department official checks a residence or dwelling once per day to ensure a person has remained separated from the public.
Violators may be fined $2,000 for the first offense and $10,000 if they caused harm by violating the quarantine.
“Violators may have to pay the costs of quarantine,” Cuomo said, adding while officials will enforce the order, travelers will be trusted to self-quarantine.
“Quarantine doesn’t stop people,” Cuomo said. “It’s not that you have ever prohibited someone from entering the state. That is a blockade. That is what the federal government threatened to do to us at one point [at the pandemic’s start in March]. That would start a civil war.”
Twin County leaders said they understand the out-of-state travel restriction springs from concern to curb the spread of COVID-19 across the state and its 62 counties, but questioned its enforcement Wednesday.
“It will have to be on the honor system,” Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said. “A lot of this COVID response has required people to use an honor system, or the smart system. There’s going to be no way to police this.”
Groden expressed concern about employees taking summer vacations in the south, or states where the virus has spiked.
“I know it’s a pain to wear a mask, but I do it,” he said. “As frustrated as we all are that Main Street isn’t as open as much as we’d like, you can’t ignore the fact that some of these southern states are having a resurgence or an increase when they didn’t.
“Is that due to travel? Is it spring break coming back to haunt them? I think it will be years before we understand this virus. We have to stay smart. We’ll see how it goes.”
Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell, R-Stockport, said he understands the tri-state travel order, but doubts people will positively respond to the governor’s suggested community policing, and lacks confidence the order will be successfully enforced.
“It’s similar to when we were banning travel from other countries to curb the spread of the disease,” Murell said Wednesday. “But I don’t see this being an effective way. How will you know if someone drove here from out-of-state? We don’t have the people power to cover every road coming into our state or county.”
Public officials statewide have been concerned about travelers who come from states where social-distancing measures and wearing masks are not enforced since the pandemic began, Murell said. The county leader urged New Yorkers to be careful in general, but especially when traveling outside the state.
“It’s always a concern — this whole pandemic’s been a concern,” Murell said. “We’ve tried to send the continuing message that people need to social distance and they need to wear masks. We’ve been very consistent in our message there, and I think that’s why we’ve been fairly successful.”
The North Country, Finger Lakes, Central New York, Mohawk Valley and Southern Tier regions of the state are on track to enter phase 4 Friday in the state’s four-phase reopening plan for nonessential businesses.
In phase 4, the state will allow social gatherings up to 50 people — up from 25 in phase 3.
The state had 581 new positive virus cases Tuesday, or about 1.1% of the 51,144 conducted tests, bringing the statewide total to 387,272 cases. The state’s 10 regions reported 2.3% new cases and lower, Tuesday, the governor said.
The state saw 17 virus-related fatalities Tuesday, bringing New York’s COVID-19 death toll to 31,257, according to John Hopkins University’s online COVID-19 tracker.
The Yankees and Mets are expected to start their second spring training July 1 at their respective fields, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and Citi Field in Queens after the league’s season was halted this spring by the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Health Department Commissioner Howard Zucker is working to develop specific Major League Baseball coronavirus guidelines and protocols with the organization.
The governor pleaded with New Yorkers to watch the rising cases and hospitalizations in other states and remain diligent in keeping 6 feet away from others and wearing face coverings in public.
“The reopening, done intelligently, done on the data, is better for the public health, and it’s better for the economy,” Cuomo said. “It was never a choice between saving lives and reopening the economy. It was always you have to do both, or you do neither. The only way to get the economy back was to have a smart reopening plan. And now, the proof is in the pudding.”