What to Know
- A new variant of the coronavirus surging through the U.K. has local leaders worried of its spread through airplane travel
- Cuomo called on the federal government to require testing or an altogether ban on travelers coming in from England
- Travel into the U.S. from most European countries, including the U.K., is still banned, according to the Department of Homeland Security's website
Concerns of a new variant of the coronavirus surging through England that "can spread more quickly" than prior strains has leaders scrambling to protect their citizens, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
On Sunday, the governor sounded the alarm on what he calls a lack of national response from U.S. federal officials to institute layers of protection from the possibility of the new variant landing if the country, if it hasn't already.
"There's a disturbing story coming out of the U.K. with this new variant of the virus, which according to Boris Johnson is 70 percent more transmissible," Cuomo warned. Currently, there are six daily flights into New York from the U.K.
Cuomo said the Port Authority lacks the jurisdiction to institute the necessary restrictions and the federal government must require testing or an altogether ban on travelers coming in from England.
"Today that variant is getting on a plane and landing at JFK," Cuomo said. "How many times in life do you have to make the same mistake before you learn?"
Travel into the U.S. from most European countries, including the U.K., is still banned, according to the Department of Homeland Security's website. President Trump's proclamation banning such travel does not apply to U.S. citizens, legal resident nor family members under the age of 21.
On Friday, The Telegraph reported that Trump was expected to lift the travel ban on the U.K. and Europe on Tuesday, citing senior sources in the travel industry.
Prior to the governor's press call on Sunday, the Netherlands banned flights from the U.K. for at least the rest of the year while Belgium issued a flight ban for 24 hours starting at midnight and also halted train links to Britain, including the Eurostar. Austria and Italy said they would halt flights from the U.K. but did not give details on any timing of the ban.
The U.K. government announced the new coronavirus strain on Monday following an increase in cases in the southern and eastern parts of England. Just over 1,100 COVID-19 cases with the new variant had been identified as of Sunday, according to a statement from Public Health England.
The latest variant of the virus has not yet been detected in New York, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker confirmed on the press call. The last time the state saw a variant of the coronavirus was back in April, he said.
Cuomo's concern of a more transmittable virus come days before yet another major holiday in the U.S. Officials once again warn against holiday travel; a warning that went ignored by many around Thanksgiving. With a growing number of restaurants and bars closed for indoor service, the governor's worries center around additional spikes stemming from increased socialization in homes.
The need for vigilance remains high as Moderna shipments left Sunday morning, adding to states' supply started last week by Pfizer. New York's nursing home residents will join the vaccinated on Monday as seniors get their first dose of the vaccine.
New York's top officials confirmed on Sunday's call that the state received its full order of the vaccine so far, a concern of several states like New Jersey that last week learned of a shortfall due to a counting error by the feds.
The number of New Yorkers hospitalized with coronavirus rose to its highest level since mid-May on Saturday: 6,208. That number dipped slightly on Sunday, dropping to 6,185.
The state on Sunday also reported 123 new deaths.