Wednesday’s decision by state health officials and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to have travelers self-quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in New York from zones with high coronavirus transmission and positive testing rates is a win for the Empire State.
The decision is certainly sensible, considering New York went from having the highest COVID-19 rate in the nation to the lowest in less than a month. 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.
“If you’re in a place that has a high infection rate, we don’t want to see the infection rate increase here,” Cuomo said Wednesday at press conference in New York City. “We worked very hard to get the virus transmission rate down. We now have to make sure the rate continues to drop.”
But we have to acknowledge that while this might be a win, it is not a slam dunk. The decision raised another question about the complexities of enforcement. Cuomo suggested an example where a New York 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. All this really offers is a traffic stop and a vague ethical use of the honor system. There is no way to police this.
Then there’s Cuomo’s curious definition of “quarantine” and the use of the word “blockade.”
“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.”
Civil war? Metaphorically and literally, we don’t need that here. Since March, this state has been to hell and back. The last thing the state needs to do is subject its citizens to another round of lockdown and closed businesses. There are weaknesses in the decision, to be sure, but after what all New Yorkers have been through, it’s the right, responsible thing to do.