Delta Airlines will require a negative COVID-19 test of travelers from...

Delta Airlines will require a negative COVID-19 test of travelers from the United Kingdom to New York and the rest of the United States amid worries over a new variant of the virus, the airline said on Monday. Credit: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

This story was reported by Robert Brodsky, Daysi Calavia-Robertson, Jesse Coburn, Laura Figueroa Hernandez, Bart Jones and David Reich-Hale. It was written by Jones and Coburn.

British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic have agreed to require all travelers heading to New York from the United Kingdom to have a negative COVID-19 test before boarding, the airlines said Monday, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced New York has vaccinated more people than any other state in the country.

British Airways will mandate the tests for New York starting Tuesday and Virgin Atlantic and Delta will do so for New York and the entire United States beginning on Thursday. They join 120 countries with the requirement while alarm continues to build over a new variant of the virus in the U.K.

It was not immediately clear whether British Airways would extend the requirement for the rest of the United States.

Earlier on Monday, in calling for the airlines to institute the requirement, Cuomo criticized the U.S. federal government for not mandating it nationwide, or halting flights outright from the U.K.

"I would not be doing my job as governor of New York if I sat here and let the federal incompetence create another emergency disaster that costs the lives of New Yorkers," he said. "This is another disaster waiting to happen."

He added: "I think the U.S. should halt travel until they know what they are talking about. Period."

The White House did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is asking airlines to include New York on the list of 120 countries that require all travelers arriving from the United Kingdom to have a negative COVID-19 test before their arrival. So far, British Airways and Delta have agreed. Credit: NY Governor's Office

Adm. Brett Giroir, the Trump Administration's coronavirus testing czar, said the White House Coronavirus Task Force would meet Monday to discuss whether any travel restrictions from the U.K. were necessary.

"I think everything is possible. We just need to put everything on the table, have an open scientific discussion and make the best recommendation," Giroir told CNN on Monday morning.

In a statement, Virgin Atlantic said throughout the pandemic it "has been championing a robust pre-departure passenger testing regime in order to reopen the skies at scale and safely replace border restrictions."

"This is the latest addition to a range of rigorous, multilayered health and safety measures to ensure that all customers fly safe and well," the airline said.

Delta, which partners with Virgin Atlantic on the flights, said: "The health and safety of customers and employees remains Delta’s No. 1 priority. Customers on board Delta’s COVID-tested flights will additionally benefit from the more than 100 safety and cleanliness initiatives the airline has implemented across its operation."

Delta said it would be working closely with Cuomo's office.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the strain is "out of control" around London and southeastern England, though experts have said it is not clear whether it is more lethal, and they expressed confidence that the vaccines now being rolled out would still be effective against it.

Cuomo said he "intuitively" believes that the U.K. variant is already in New York, given the volume of daily plane flights and thousands of daily passengers that arrive in the region. Under preexisting COVID restrictions, non-U. S. citizens from the United Kingdom are prohibited from entering the United States if they have been in the U.K. in the previous 14 days.

"This was the Spring. This is how we had that New York ambush in the first place," Cuomo said, referring to the initial COVID-19 surge arriving in the state from Europe when federal officials and others were talking about the virus only arriving from China.

Also on Monday, Cuomo said New York has distributed more vaccines and vaccinated more people than any state in the nation. As of Cuomo's late morning briefing, 38,000 New Yorkers received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, he said.

"We did this despite the snowstorm that we had over the past few days, which made it actually a little more interesting, a little more difficult, but welcome to 2020," Cuomo said.

Long Island hospitals have received 86,150 vaccine doses to date, he said.

An additional 120,000 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in the state this week, along with 346,000 doses of the recently-approved Moderna vaccine, Cuomo said.

Vaccinations in nursing homes began on Monday. It will take six weeks and include 618 nursing home facilities across the state, with 77 of them on Long Island.

The daily positivity level in test results from Sunday statewide was 5.75%, according to state data released Monday. The seven-day average was 6.39% on Long Island and 4.28% in New York City.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 rose by 146, to 6,331. That included 1,074 patients on Long Island.

A total of 109 people died Sunday of causes related to the virus. The number of new confirmed cases in test results completed Sunday was 766 in Nassau County, 978 in Suffolk County and 3,338 in New York City.

Hempstead funds for local schools

After facing criticism for directing COVID-19 relief funding to payroll costs and bathroom upgrades, Hempstead Town officials on Monday announced they would award $5.5 million to local school districts to help cover expenses incurred because of the pandemic.

Hempstead will give up to $150,000 to each of the town’s 36 school districts and to Nassau BOCES, Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said.

"They've been really essential workers out there on the front lines trying to educate our children," he said of local school districts. "They've had numerous expenses that they need help with."

The announcement came three days after the U.S. Department of the Treasury said it would investigate Hempstead’s use of $133 million in federal CARES Act funding it received earlier this year to cover pandemic-related expenses.

Local Democratic lawmakers requested the federal review, arguing the Republican-controlled town has been slow to spend the money and secretive about more than $70 million of it that Hempstead’s board earlier this month directed to town spending accounts for things like sanitation and general services.

The town also has given about $28 million to food banks, hospitals for testing sites, universities and villages since May.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who had asked Clavin to reimburse the county for $50 million in pandemic-related expenses, criticized the timing and size of the town grants to schools.

"School districts are being thrown a proverbial bone at the very last minute, when they deserved much more, much sooner," Curran said in a statement.

The county received $103 million in CARES Act funding.

Curran also said Nassau will expand access to free COVID-19 testing at Federally Qualified Health Centers in Roosevelt, Hempstead, Freeport, Westbury and Elmont.

"This public health crisis revealed what we already knew were big health disparities here in Nassau County," Curran said.

David Nemiroff, president and chief executive of Family Health Centers of Long Island, said nurses and community health workers will also be sent out to connect with people who cannot access the facilities, including those in homeless shelters.

With The Associated Press

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