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Last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont would enforce a joint, mandatory 14-day quarantine for all people entering the tri-state area from 12 states with especially high COVID-19 case rates. Cuomo said that any state with case rates that exceed a certain threshold – either 10 cases per 100,000 people on a seven-day rolling average or 10 percent of the state’s population during the same period – will be subject to the quarantine. Cuomo also said that New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut reserved the power to add and subtract states from their quarantine list at will.
Upon the announcement, the states impacted by the quarantine were Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah, and Texas. Gov. Cuomo urged travelers from these states to reconsider any travel plans to the tri-state area and warned that quarantine violations could come with judicial orders, fines, and other fees applied for the costs of the mandatory quarantine. People who disobey the quarantine could face a $2,000 fine for their first violation, a $5,000 fine for a second violation, and a $10,000 fine if they, in Cuomo’s words, “cause harm.”
Notably, individual states lack the authority to prevent flights from one state to enter another. This responsibility falls to the federal government. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut may thus be limited in their powers to enforce the tri-state area quarantine. Gov. Cuomo’s office has contacted airlines directly to request that they remind travelers of the new quarantine rules.
Similarly, no state can fully ban residents of one state from entering another. Cuomo thus made sure to stress that the tri-state area quarantine is not a travel blockade but a set of new conditions for any travelers visiting. Until further notice, 14-day quarantine is necessary to enter these states, after which point entry is fully permitted.
Gov. Cuomo’s tri-state area quarantine announcement came shortly before certain regions of New York, which was previously the epicenter of the pandemic, moved into Phase 4 of reopening. Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier all entered this phase on Friday, two days after Cuomo’s quarantine announcement. In this phase, low-risk outdoor entertainment and arts businesses such as zoos and botanical gardens may reopen at one-third capacity, with museums and aquariums and certain other low-risk indoor entertainment and arts businesses permitted to function at one-fourth capacity.
The tri-state area quarantine was announced two days before both Florida and Texas, two of the 12 states included in the quarantine list, paused their reopening plans due to rapidly rising local COVID-19 infection rates. Neither state has reverted to full shutdowns, instead opting to keep their previous reopening measures in place while delaying those formerly scheduled to take place soon. Meanwhile, in New York, 51,144 statewide COVID-19 tests administered on June 23 led to 581 new positive tests – 1.1 percent of all people tested. In New York City, which saw the most cases of COVID-19 in the country at the state of the pandemic, only 1.2 percent of people tested the same day turned out to be positive.