Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced that domestic travelers to New York will no longer be required to quarantine starting next month — but Mayor Bill de Blasio and city health officials quickly took issue with the move.
Quarantine will not be required beginning April 1 — though the state Health Department is still recommending that domestic travelers to the Empire State do so voluntarily “as an added precaution,” the governor’s office said.
All travelers must still fill out the state’s traveler health form, and mandatory quarantine will remain in effect for international travelers.
“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,” said Cuomo.
Under Cuomo’s previous mandate, which went into effect in November, travelers arriving in New York were required to quarantine for three days before getting a coronavirus test. If that test came back negative, they was permitted to leave lockdown.
Travelers were also required to get a negative COVID-19 within the three days prior to heading to New York under that mandate.
Speaking at his own press briefing, De Blasio – who earlier said Cuomo “can no longer serve as governor” amid his sexual harassment and nursing home scandals — expressed concerns about the lifting of the quarantine rule.
“I believe in local control and here’s another case where New York City was not consulted even though we’re one of the biggest cities in the world and 43 percent of the state’s population,” de Blasio said.
The mayor added, “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 of this whole crisis and something we worry about very much going forward,” de Blasio said, noting that he plans to “analyze” the rule change with the city’s health team.
Dr. Jay Varma, de Blasio’s senior adviser for public health, added that “tremendous progress” has been made in the fight against COVID-19, but said “we’re still at a very tenuous point,” noting that more infectious strains of the virus now make up more than half of cases in the Big Apple.
“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.
“And also when people do travel to take extra precautions like being tested before and being tested after and we think that that really … is an important measure to keep in place until we get to a place where a far greater percentage of our population is vaccinated,” he said.
Mitchell Katz, the president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals, also chimed in, saying, “Having people going without any quarantine is worrisome to me.”
Regardless of quarantine status, the state says all individuals exposed to COVID-19 and returning to New York from travel must monitor themselves daily for symptoms for 14 days and immediately self-isolate if any symptoms develop, as well as contact the local public health authority or their healthcare provider to report it.
Additional reporting by Carl Campanile