New York City is setting up checkpoints at bridges and tunnels immediately to help enforce the state’s COVID-19 two-week quarantine order for people traveling from states with high infection levels, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
And starting Thursday, members of the Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit will be at Penn Station to remind travelers from 34 states and Puerto Rico that they must complete health forms to assist contact tracing efforts. Those who haven't completed the forms will be asked to fill them out on the spot, officials said.
"It's time for everyone to realize that if we're going to hold at this level of health and safety in this city and get better, we have to deal with the fact that the quarantine must be applied consistently to anyone who's traveled," de Blasio said during a news briefing. "So, this checkpoint effort is going to be a new, important piece of that."
One-fifth of all new COVID-19 cases in the city are found in people who have recently traveled from other states, said Dr. Ted Long, head of the city Test & Trace Corps.
The state reported 301 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in New York City on Wednesday for a total of 226,581 in the five boroughs. Of four new deaths from COVID-19 in the state announced Wednesday, one was in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn.
New York City Sheriff Joseph Fucito said the checks would be random “to avoid discrimination” and license plate readers would help select the vehicles.
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The checks are expected to be brief, according to a “CHECKPOINT FAQ” distributed by the mayor’s office.
“Individuals will be asked whether they have spent more than 24 hours in any State on New York’s Restricted State list in the last 14 days,” the document says.
Travelers from places in New York's "travel advisory" list are required to quarantine for 14 days.
Even if a motorist doesn’t plan to stop in the city and is just passing through, the form is required to be completed if the motorist has been in one of the restricted areas for more than 24 hours, the document says.
There’s no end date to the program, according to de Blasio spokeswoman Laura Feyer. The legal authority comes from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's executive order, the Constitution's Fourth Amendment and the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court case of City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, Feyer said.
As at sobriety checkpoints, an officer making stops under de Blasio’s program could search vehicles if there is a legal basis, and issue summonses and make arrests if other criminality is found, according to Feyer.
When New York City was the epicenter of the outbreak, states like Texas, Delaware, Florida and Rhode Island stopped drivers with out-of-state plates from places like New York and ordered them to quarantine. De Blasio said on Florida's program in March: “I’m not sure it’s the most enlightened approach.”
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees tunnels and bridges connecting the two states, referred all calls about checkpoints to the Mayor's office.
Long said people who must quarantine will be offered free food delivery, help with medications, direct connections to doctors by the phone and a hotel stay — if needed.
New coronavirus cases staying low
Meanwhile, the number of new COVID-19 cases in New York State continues to remain low with less than 1% of people who were tested Tuesday showing a positive result, Cuomo said Wednesday.
Cuomo said 636 of the 72,668 tests were positive, or 0.87%. The numbers were slightly higher on Long Island and in New York City where, respectively, 1.2% and 1% of COVID-19 tests given Tuesday yielded a positive result.
"Our progress is thanks to the hard work of New Yorkers — even after two and a half months of reopening, the numbers have continued to go down," Cuomo said in a statement.
There were 85 new cases of COVID-19 in Suffolk County and 46 in Nassau County, according to statistics from the state.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said in a statement the number of people testing positive is .8% after three consecutive days of hovering above 1% and hospitalization numbers have remained steady.
"I am very proud of our residents but we must stay vigilant given the continued surge across the country," she said.
As part of the crackdown on bars and restaurants not following pandemic protocols, such as enforcing social distancing and face coverings, the state suspended liquor licenses for 11 bars on Tuesday, primarily in the five boroughs of New York City.
The multiagency task force made 945 compliance checks on Monday and found violations at 27 establishments, including one in Suffolk County.
Cuomo also said the state's Department of Financial Services has issued new guidelines to health insurers so patients are not charged extra fees for personal protective equipment during visits to their health care providers.
COVID-19 was the main topic at hand as Cuomo took over as chairman of the National Governors Association on Wednesday. He called on his fellow governors to “lock arms and leave the virus no place to spread,” during a meeting held via video stream.
Testing capacity, contact tracing, stockpiles of personal protective equipment and financial support for hospitals are key to successfully battling the pandemic, he said.
“Let's institutionalize what we have learned so we are better prepared for the next invasion and let us design and implement a new public health system for this nation, because we just cannot go through this again,” Cuomo said.
States in NY's quarantine list
Travelers in New York State's "travel advisory" list, due to community spread of the COVID-19 virus, are required to quarantine for 14 days. The quarantine applies to any person arriving from an area with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or an area with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average, the state said. The following is the updated list of places whose travelers face those restrictions in New York as of Aug. 4:
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- New Mexico
- Puerto Rico
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
SOURCE: New York State
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