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NY, NJ, CT impose quarantines on travelers from states with high coronavirus rates

Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, joined via video conference with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, announces Wednesday a joint incoming travel advisory that travelers from states with high rates of COVID-19 quarantine for 14 days.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are imposing mandatory quarantines for travelers from several states with high rates of the novel coronavirus, including Florida and Texas, effective midnight Wednesday.  


Gov. Andrew Cuomo was joined Wednesday via remote feeds by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. 


“We’re announcing today a joint travel advisory. People coming in from states that have a high infection rate must quarantine for 14 days,” Cuomo said.


Travelers from states that have an infection rate higher than 10% of their population for a seven-day average will be under the quarantine orders. That list currently includes Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Washington. States can be removed from the list if their infection rates improve, and other states will be added if their numbers of people with the disease go up.  


Residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut who travel to those states and return will also have to quarantine.  


Violators who are caught face a $2,000 fine. 


The three states had strict stay-at-home orders throughout the spring and are undergoing measured and careful reopenings. Murphy said the three states have been “through hell and back” with economic shutdowns that caused severe hardships. And he said he does not want increased infections from elsewhere to cause a repeat of that.  


“The last thing we need to do right now is to subject our folks to another round,” Murphy said. 


There is no federal policy on closures and reopenings to help control the spread of the coronavirus. Lamont said states that have managed the virus well feel that they have no choice but to act, saying, “We’re not an island.” 


“Right now, we’re seeing places within some of these states where you have a positivity rate of 20, 30, 40% — in many cases, younger people, folks who travel, 18 to 35 (years old),” Lamont said, “who are maybe not at risk themselves but are highly infectious.”  


The travel advisories are a reversal of fortune for New York and the other states, which in the spring were virus hot spots, with New York at the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. Florida ordered a quarantine of New York visitors for a time. The governor of Rhode Island briefly threatened to arrest travelers coming into her state from New York.


The governors of the three states credit their success to the cooperation of residents who obeyed the stay-at-home orders and who are largely wearing masks and practicing safe social distancing. In New York, many regions upstate are poised to begin the final phase of four phases of reopening. 


But that phase has stirred controversy, because indoor shopping malls, movie theaters and gyms are not on that list. Cuomo said the reason for the delay is that some studies have shown that the air conditioning systems common in those indoor public spaces may actually spread the virus. 


“That air conditioning may not be cleansing the air of the virus, and just recirculating the virus,” Cuomo said. “We’re studying that, and as soon as we get some more information, we’ll make an informed decision.” 


The governor said the malls, movie theaters and gyms could reopen at a later date, but he did not rule out the possibility that they could remain closed until there is a vaccine for the virus.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.