CHAPPAQUA — The state Department of Health is investigating potential COVID-19 exposure after a student infected with the virus who recently traveled to Florida attended a Westchester County graduation ceremony, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed an executive order Saturday limiting virus paid sick leave eligibility for state employees.
The student started exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms shortly after attending Horace Greeley High School’s drive-in graduation ceremony June 20 at the Chappaqua train station and tested positive for the virus. Four other people who had contact with the student at the ceremony also tested positive and are self-isolating, according to a statement Saturday afternoon from the governor’s office.
The student also participated in a nonschool related Field Night event June 20, which was attended by the school’s juniors and seniors and students from surrounding school districts. Any person who attended the graduation ceremony, Field Night event or events associated with graduation, which continued into June 21, should self-quarantine until July 5.
“As we are seeing in other states who reopened quickly, the pandemic is far from over and we need to stay vigilant,” Cuomo said. “We’re prepared to do the aggressive testing and contact tracing required to slow and ultimately control any potential clusters of new cases like the one in Westchester County.”
The governor signed an executive order Wednesday requiring all New Yorkers or visitors from states with high COVID-19 positive testing rates, including Florida, to self-quarantine for 14 days. The order went into effect at midnight Thursday — five days after the downstate graduation.
The state Health Department released guidance June 14 requiring any school district that held a graduation ceremony to adhere to appropriate social-distancing guidelines, limiting the number of attendees, wearing face coverings and other precautions to curb the spread of the virus. The department is investigating if school officials followed state graduation guidelines amid the pandemic.
Cuomo also declared a new executive order Saturday making any New York employee who voluntarily travels to high-risk states after June 25 ineligible for COVID-19 paid sick leave. State employees will not receive the paid sick leave if they travel to a high-risk coronavirus state for any nonessential purpose, including vacation.
“If we are going to maintain the progress we’ve seen, we need everyone to take personal responsibility — that’s why I’m issuing an executive order that says any New York employee who voluntarily travels to a high-risk state will not be eligible for the COVID protections we created under paid sick leave,” the governor said.
State employees will forgo paid sick leave benefits from New York’s COVID-19 paid sick leave law if they engage in nonessential travel to any state that has a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10% test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. The provision does not apply if the employee travels for work or at their employer’s request.
The provision included in Saturday’s executive order mirrors the law’s existing provision that makes New Yorkers ineligible for paid sick leave after traveling to any country the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designates as a level-two or -three travel health notice, according to the order.
The state Department of Health and Westchester County Health Department are working with Horace Greeley school officials to identify every person who attended the graduation ceremony or any subsequent gatherings where they may have been exposed to the virus. New York State Contact Tracing Program employees will contact the individuals to schedule a COVID-19 diagnostic test, according to the governor’s office.
“New Yorkers have controlled the spread of this unprecedented virus by being smart and disciplined, and our progress to date is illustrated by the current low numbers of new cases and hospitalizations,” Cuomo said.
The state reported 908 COVID-19 hospitalizations Saturday — the lowest since the pandemic ravaged the state in March.
The state reported 703 new COVID-19 cases, or 0.96%, of the 73,262 tests conducted Friday.
To schedule a COVID-19 test or for more information about the virus, visit coronavirus.health.ny.gov/covid-19-testing