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Cuomo: New York ending domestic travel quarantine requirement in April

A traveler at Long Island MacArthur Airport in

A traveler at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma filled out her state-mandated health form in December. The requirement was put in place, along with specific quarantine rules applied per state, to facilitate contact tracing amid pandemic measures. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

This story was reported by Matthew Chayes, Candice Ferrette, Bart Jones, David Reich-Hale and Joie Tyrrell. It was written by Jones.

People traveling from other states or U.S. territories into New York no longer will be required to quarantine, starting April 1, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday, though New York City's mayor immediately criticized the move.

The loosening of travel restrictions came as the number of COVID-19 cases in New York is steadily declining or stabilizing, and more people are getting vaccines. International travelers will still be under the mandate, aimed at curtailing spread of the coronavirus.

"This is great news, but it is not an all-clear for New Yorkers to let their guard down," Cuomo said in a statement.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he disagreed with the action.

"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% of the state’s population," de Blasio said at his daily press briefing.

Cuomo said that as "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."

While it will not be mandatory for travelers from other states to quarantine, officials are still recommending it as a precaution, Cuomo said.

Last week, Cuomo said domestic travelers to New York who had been vaccinated would no longer be required to quarantine or test out within 90 days of their full vaccination, though international travelers would still be expected do so, following guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new guidelines do not appear to impose a vaccination requirement.

Regardless of quarantine status, anyone exposed to COVID-19 or returning from travel must follow certain state mandates, such as monitoring daily symptoms for 14 days.

Schumer: Feds sending vaccine 'supercharge'

The federal government is sending a "vaccine supercharge" to New York, funding the operation of more than 100 sites to administer shots for COVID-19 across the state, Sen. Chuck Schumer's office said.

A list of 35 initial vaccination hubs issued Thursday included locations throughout New York City and upstate New York, part of what Schumer's office is calling a massive expansion of federally funded sites that will operate at community health centers.

"More access and more shots means a quicker recovery, and that’s what we want," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

Federal officials from the Department of Health and Human Services said participating health centers will hear soon from the Health Resources and Services Administration with tentative dates to start their local vaccination efforts.

Peter Grisafi, president of Damian Family Care Centers, which includes one center in Ronkonkoma and 12 in New York City, said he had not yet heard from the government how many vaccines his organization will receive.

But he called Schumer’s announcement "welcome" news.

He said his group of federally qualified health centers has received about 3,000 doses since Dec. 21, but none in the last six weeks. The organization works with people undergoing substance abuse treatment or those in recovery.

New York has also been increasing efforts to step up vaccinations through mass vaccination sites, pop-ups in underserved communities, and expansion of eligibility requirements. This week, the state lowered the age threshold from 65 to 60 for people who qualify for the vaccine, and a state official confirmed Wednesday that more appointment slots had been added at state-run sites.

Nursing homes still face strict visiting rules

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has revised nursing home visitation guidelines that specify that, in most cases, guests can visit residents inside a facility whether they, or residents, have been vaccinated.

The new guidelines, however, don’t eliminate the major sticking point that has kept most Long Island nursing homes from allowing visitors. Nursing homes must be free of COVID-19 cases affecting either employees or residents for 14 days to qualify for visits. The federal guidance indicates that outbreak testing would be discontinued after no new positives are found among staff or residents within that period.

The stringent requirements have frustrated nursing home operators and some medical professionals.

"If the loved one has been vaccinated, the family member has also been vaccinated, the county level is in the green and the screening process occurs, we should give consideration to allowing that visit," said Ken Knutsen, administrator at Huntington Hills Center for Health and Rehabilitation in Melville.

Dr. David Siskind, medical director at Northwell’s Stern Family Center for Rehabilitation in Manhasset, added "it would be nice if we could use our clinical judgment instead of there being such hard and fast rules."

The New York State Department of Health said in a Thursday statement it "is reviewing the new CMS guidance" on visitation: "Since last summer we have taken a measured approach to help nursing homes safely implement visitation, and the Department looks forward to continuing this effort."

Lowest virus positivity since Nov. 21

Cuomo said more than 6 million total vaccine doses have been administered throughout the state. More than 20% of New Yorkers have received a first dose, and 10.4% are fully vaccinated.

The level of positivity in testing for COVID-19 continued to decline slightly or remain stable throughout the state and on Long Island, according to state data released Thursday.

The daily positivity level statewide from 243,153 test results from Wednesday was 2.77%, the lowest level since Nov. 21.

The seven-day average was 3.11% statewide, 4.21% on Long Island and 3.86% in New York City.

The number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 was 579 in Nassau, 565 in Suffolk and 3,548 in New York City.

Statewide, 80 people died Wednesday of causes related to the virus, including three in Nassau and nine in Suffolk.

Fourteen new temporary vaccination "pop-up" sites aimed at reaching vulnerable communities were opening this week throughout the state, Cuomo said.

The sites are expected to vaccinate more than 4,000 people during the week.

Locally the sites include the Glen Cove YMCA, which was to vaccinate people on Thursday between 8 a.m. and noon, and the First Baptist Church of Riverhead, which is to inoculate people Friday between 8 a.m. and noon.

The sites will be reestablished in three weeks to administer second doses of the vaccine.

Nassau hospital gave shots to veterans

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Thursday announced a partnership between Nassau University Medical Center and the county’s Veterans Services Agency to give the COVID-19 vaccine to those who served in the armed forces and their family members.

"Protecting our veterans from this deadly disease is the least we can do to thank them — to those who valiantly protected our freedoms here in America," Curran said.

More than 300 veterans were inoculated at the county’s only public hospital Thursday in East Meadow. About 50,000 veterans live in Nassau.

Veterans will still need to be part of one of the state’s eligibility groups and any of their family members seeking a vaccine at the site would too, Curran said. The move is aimed to bring greater vaccine access to the county’s veterans, some of whom are unable to travel to the Northport VA Medical Center.

To date, NUMC has distributed more than 25,000 total doses, including 15,000 first doses.

Islip schools returning to in-person classes

Islip is in the process of returning students to in-person instruction five days a week at its middle and high schools where the hybrid model of learning will be phased out, according to a presentation on the district website.

"Students will have the option to come back every day," read the notice. Students in grades 6-12 are being phased back into the classroom by grade level throughout the month.

In addition, district officials reported that "Though the practice of maintaining 6 feet of social distance within all instructional spaces will not be possible during this transition, we are committed to ensuring that, when possible, we will continue to enforce 6 feet of social distance and implement additional health and safety barriers in certain instructional and noninstructional spaces."

The district will continue contact tracing and quarantines as applicable and masks and temperature checks will be enforced.

GETTING COVID-19 VACCINES IN NY

Who qualifies for COVID-19 shots?

The State of New York has expended its eligibility list for vaccines against COVID-19 several times, expanding the groups of people included in the phases. This is a summary of the eligible groups. The following are the qualifying categories, as revised on March 29.

Group in Phase 1A

The state said about 2.1 million state residents belong in this group, including:

  • Health care workers at hospitals who interact with patients.
  • Residents and staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
  • Dentists, psychologists and others deemed health care workers with direct contact with patients.
  • Employees of Federally Qualified Health Centers.
  • EMT volunteers and staff.
  • Coroners, medical examiners, some funeral workers.
  • Staff and residents of state facilities for people with developmental disabilities, mental health care and addiction services.
  • Employees at urgent care centers.
  • Individuals administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health department staff.
  • Staff at ambulatory centers.
  • Home care and hospice workers.
  • Residents and staff at other congregate care facilities.

Group in Phase 1B

The state estimated about 3.2 million residents belong in this group, including:

  • People 75 years of age and older.
  • Teachers and education workers, including in-person college instructors, substitute teachers, student teachers, school administrators, paraprofessional staff, support staff, contractors in schools and bus drivers.
  • First responders, including police; firefighters; state police; sheriff’s offices; county, town and village police departments, and other law enforcement offices.
  • Public safety workers, including dispatchers and technicians.
  • Public transit workers, including airport, railroad, subway, bus, ferry and Port Authority employees.
  • Corrections officers.
  • Other sworn and civilian personnel, such as court and peace officers.
  • Grocery store workers dealing with the public.
  • Individuals living in homeless shelters.

Following federal recommendations:

Added at the discretion of local governments:

  • Taxi drivers.
  • Restaurant workers.
  • Residents of facilities for developmentally disabled people.
  • Hotel workers who interact with the public.

Other expansions of eligibility:

  • State residents age 60 and older (Since March 10, 2021).
  • “Public-facing” government and public employees (Since March 17, 2021).
  • Workers for not-for-profit organizations who provide “public-facing” services (Since March 17, 2021).
  • Building service workers who are “public-facing” employees (Since March 17, 2021).
  • State residents age 50 and older (Since March 23, 2021).

Since March 30, 2021:

Since April 6, 2021:

SOURCE: New York State, Northwell Health.

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