Cuomo says there will be ‘random checks,’ but quarantine details murky

ALBANY — Health care and other “essential” workers will be exempted from an executive order signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo late Wednesday that requires travelers who enter New York after visiting states with high rates of coronavirus infections to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The quarantine order was also adopted by Connecticut and New Jersey on Wednesday.

It’s unclear how the mandatory quarantines will be enforced, or whether police or other enforcement agencies will track travelers or set up checkpoints at terminals, including airports and bus stations, or along highways — as Florida did in late March when Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a similar quarantine order targeting New York and other northeast states where the virus was raging.

On March 28, Cuomo criticized Rhode Island for setting up border checkpoints and stopping vehicles with New York license plates to question drivers about their travel plans, and to remind them to quarantine if necessary.

“I don’t think that’s legal,” Cuomo had said. “If they don’t roll back that policy, I’m going to sue Rhode Island, because that clearly is unconstitutional. I understand the goal and I could set up my borders and say, ‘I’m not letting anyone in until they take a test to see whether or not they have the virus.’ But, you know, there’s a point of absurdity, and I think that what Rhode Island did is at that point of absurdity.”

In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Cuomo said New York will not set up a “blockade” but offered no detail on how the quarantine will be enforced, although he implied there will be “random checks.”

“I don’t believe a blockade is legal. The federal government at one time threatened to blockade New York, which means you couldn’t come in, you couldn’t go out,” he told CNN. “I don’t believe that’s constitutional, but states do have the authority to regulate their own public health. The law is if you come in from another state you have to self-quarantine for 14 days. If you don’t, and you get caught, you will have violated the law. You can be fined. … But if you fly into New York, we’ll have your name, we’ll know where you’re supposed to be staying, there will be random checks. You get pulled over by a police officer and he looks at where your residence is and says, ‘How long have you been here?'”

The state Health Department provided some guidance on its website early Thursday that laid out rules for someone returning to New York, including mandating that they remain in “separate quarters with a separate bathroom facility for each individual or family group.”

If it is a single family member who is quarantined, though, then the person must remain isolated from other members of the household and have food delivered to them.

“A system for temperature and symptom monitoring must be implemented to provide assessment in-place for the quarantined persons in their separate

quarters,” the guidance states. “Nearby medical facilities must be notified, if the individual begins to experience more than mild symptoms and may require medical assistance. The quarters must be secure against unauthorized access.”

But the rules are murky for essential workers — a long list of professions that are summarized on a different Health Department web page and includes jobs ranging from auto repair to convenience store clerks.

It’s unclear whether commercial truckers will be exempted, but the state’s directive from late March determining essential workers includes “mail and shipping services” — though it’s unclear if that’s a category that includes interstate truckers. The guidance also calls for “essential” transporters to remain in their vehicles and limit their contact with others if they are delivering goods to New York.

There are other limitations for visiting essential workers, based on how long they are going to be in New York, that primarily require them to avoid contact with others, wear a mask and be tested for COVID-19 if they will be in the state more than 36 hours.

But the guidance directive still leaves many questions unanswered. It does not, for instance, specify whether an essential worker who visits a high-risk state for a vacation or unofficial purpose would be exempted upon returning to New York and resuming their job duties.

Someone who passes through a high-risk state, and may visit a few rest areas along the way or have a layover at an airport, they are not required to self-quarantine upon entering New York.

In recent days, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has said that state may also implement a new quarantine on out-of-state travel, as many other states have done, including Alaska, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont.

(FILES) In this file photo NY Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press briefing on COVID-19 at Madison Boys and Girls Club in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on May 28, 2020. - The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on June 24, 2020 issued a travel advisory saying visitors from US states with accelerating COVID-19 infection rates
1of4(FILES) In this file photo NY Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press briefing on COVID-19 at Madison Boys and Girls Club in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on May 28, 2020. – The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on June 24, 2020 issued a travel advisory saying visitors from US states with accelerating COVID-19 infection rates “must quarantine for 14 days.” The advisory effective at midnight currently applies to visitors from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas, New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo said. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)ANGELA WEISS/Getty
A flight coming from Orlando, Florida is seen on the arrival monitor at Albany International Airport on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 in Colonie, N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed that all travelers arriving in New York State from states heavily impacted by the spread of the Coronavirus are subject to a 14-day quarantine. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)
2of4A flight coming from Orlando, Florida is seen on the arrival monitor at Albany International Airport on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 in Colonie, N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed that all travelers arriving in New York State from states heavily impacted by the spread of the Coronavirus are subject to a 14-day quarantine. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)Lori Van Buren/Albany Times Union
A family traveling to Orlando walk to their gate after getting their boarding tickets at Albany International Airport on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 in Colonie, N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed that all travelers arriving in New York State from states heavily impacted by the spread of the Coronavirus are subject to a 14-day quarantine. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)
3of4A family traveling to Orlando walk to their gate after getting their boarding tickets at Albany International Airport on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 in Colonie, N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed that all travelers arriving in New York State from states heavily impacted by the spread of the Coronavirus are subject to a 14-day quarantine. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)Lori Van Buren/Albany Times Union
FILE - In this March 16, 2020 file photo, tourist Ines Tshiyomba, center, poses as her friend Garethe Mawonso takes her photo on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. New York, Connecticut and New Jersey will require visitors from other states with high infection rates to quarantine for 14 days. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the
4of4FILE – In this March 16, 2020 file photo, tourist Ines Tshiyomba, center, poses as her friend Garethe Mawonso takes her photo on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. New York, Connecticut and New Jersey will require visitors from other states with high infection rates to quarantine for 14 days. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the “travel advisory” Wednesday at a briefing joined via video feed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)Mark Lennihan

The quarantine orders will affect potentially tens of thousands of business travelers and vacationing families who may visit states flagged as high-risk. It is also being implemented near the beginning of what in normal years would be the height of summer vacation season.

Cuomo first suggested a quarantine period for visitors last week and doubled down on the assertions a few days ago – saying residents of states where cases are on the rise, including Florida and Texas, could trigger a new spike in infections while visiting New York.

“We have a calibration for the infection rate, and any state that goes over the infection rate … will be subject to the quarantine,” Cuomo said. “It’s only for the simple reason that we worked very hard to get the viral transmission rate down, and we don’t want to see it go back up.”

States will be included in the advisory if 10 per 100,000 residents or 10 percent of the total population tests positive on a seven-day rolling average, Cuomo said. States flagged by New York health officials as of Thursday include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas.

The mandate went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut governors said each state will enforce the order differently, but in New York, a person who violates the advisory could be subject to mandatory quarantine through a “judicial order” or fines of up to $10,000, Cuomo said. Each state will each update its respective website “regularly” with a list of states included in the advisory.

Cuomo had suggested Wednesday that, in addition to police pulling over cars with out-of-state plates, hotel clerks could flag travelers breaking quarantine rules.

“It’s not impossible to enforce. States all across the country have been doing this for months (on) New Yorkers who would go to their state,” Cuomo said. “It is hard to get 100 percent enforcement. You can’t track down everyone who comes from these states, but that’s not what enforcement is either. You never enforce every law 100 percent.”

Read More