Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday morning that domestic travelers will no longer be required to quarantine after entering New York from another state starting April 1st. But Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city wasn’t consulted on this decision, and he and his health advisors disagree with removing that requirement.
“I believe in local control, and here’s another case where New York City wasn’t consulted even though we’re one of the biggest cities in the world,” de Blasio said during his morning press conference on Thursday. “Of course I have concerns about this. I think the introduction of the virus from outside has been one of the biggest and toughest X-factors in this whole crisis, and something we worry about going forward.”
“We’re still at a very tenuous point,” said Dr. Jay Varma, NYC’s Senior Advisor for Public Health. He pointed to this week’s report that 51% of COVID cases in the city are due to new, more infectious variants of the virus as a major reason why quarantines shouldn’t be lifted yet. He emphasized that when people do travel, they should take extra precautions, like getting tested for COVID-19 before departure and after arrival.
“We do feel really strongly that it’s important for us to be as cautious as we possibly can, and we know that one of the ways to help reduce infections is to limit the amount of travel that’s going in and out of the city,” Varma said. Dr. Mitchell Katz, the CEO of NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation, added that different travel policies could be put into place in the future based on people’s vaccination status.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance on Monday, whereby members of fully vaccinated households can begin interacting with unvaccinated people under certain circumstances. But the CDC didn’t change its travel rules. Nevertheless, last week Cuomo announced that he would relax quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers to New York, allowing visitors who have been fully vaccinated to enter the state without any time in quarantine or testing requirement.
“Especially with the variants, we want to limit how they move throughout our country, therefore, having people going without any quarantine is worrisome to me,” Dr. Katz said.
According to Cuomo’s edict today, mandatory quarantining remains in effect for international travelers, and his office still recommends quarantining for anyone returning from traveling throughout the U.S. as a precaution. All travelers must continue to fill out the state’s Traveler Health Form as well. Back in July, Cuomo announced that all travelers flying into airports in New York state will have to fill out the form, providing contact and itinerary information for contract tracing purposes, or face a $2,000 fine.
“As we work to build our vaccination infrastructure even further and get more shots in arms, we’re making significant progress in winning the footrace between the infection rate and the vaccination rate, allowing us to open new sectors of our economy and start our transition to a new normal in a post-pandemic world,” Governor Cuomo stated. “This is great news, but it is not an all-clear for New Yorkers to let their guard down. To beat this virus once and for all we all must continue doing what we know works to stop the spread, including wearing masks, washing our hands and practicing social distancing.”