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NY, NJ And CT Impose Travel Quarantines

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking March 25, 2020.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will impose mandatory quarantines for travelers from states with high rates of the coronavirus effective midnight tonight.

Governor Andrew Cuomo was joined via remote feeds by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Connecticut Governor 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 Florida, Texas, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, and Washington State.  Some of those states can be removed from the list if their infection rates improve, other states will be added if their number of people with the disease goes 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. New Jersey Governor Murphy says the three states have been “through hell and back” with economic shutdowns that caused severe hardships. And he says he does not want to repeat that due to increased infections from elsewhere.  

“The last thing we need 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. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont says 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 20, 30, 40 percent, 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, who in the spring were virus hot spots, with New York at the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. Florida ordered a quarantine for 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 people in their states 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 stage has stirred controversy, because indoor shopping malls, movie theaters and gyms are not on that list. Cuomo says the reason for the delay is that some studies have shown that the air conditioning in 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 says the malls, movie theaters and gyms could open 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 public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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