New York's quarantine list, which had most recently restricted travel from 41 U.S. hotspots, is no more. Instead, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says travelers coming into the state must take a coronavirus test before starting travel and again four days after entering the state.
As described by the governor, there are two classifications of travelers entering New York: residents who traveled outside the state for less than 24 hours, and everyone else. Both kinds of travelers entering New York must now quarantine for at least a 3-day period before taking a coronavirus test. As long as the test comes back negative, the governor says, the quarantine period can end.
New Yorkers returning from travel under 24 hours outside the state do not need to take a test before coming back, but must still take a test after re-entering. Everyone else, in the general categorization, must take a test before traveling to New York, Cuomo said. Within three days of traveling to the state, people must take a test before commuting via plane or other mode of travel.
Anyone opting not to take a test four days after arrival must still complete a 14-day quarantine period.
"They'll be no quarantine list, they'll be no metrics," Cuomo said on his daily press briefing Saturday.
New York's quarantine list required travelers to the tri-state area from U.S. hotspots to self-isolate for 14 days before roaming freely in the region. It also required residents of the tri-state area to self-isolate after returning home from an identified hotspot.
The newest testing mandate for people entering the state does not apply to neighboring New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts due to regional proximity. While acknowledging rising virus positivity in nearby states, Cuomo said there is too much daily travel across their borders to regulate.
"It would disrupt everything if you quarantined those states," he added.
Cuomo continues to urge New Yorkers, to the extent they can, to avoid nonessential travel between those nearby states for as long as they meet the quarantine threshold. Govs. Phil Murphy and Ned Lamont have issued similar pleas to the people of New Jersey and Connecticut in recent weeks.
Tracking Coronavirus in Tri-State
The state's shift in policy comes as New York teetered on the edge of meeting its own standards for the tri-state quarantine list, reporting 9.98 new cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day rolling period as of Friday. The threshold is 10, which the neighboring states of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey have already topped.
That metric is driven by high numbers in the Southern Tier (24.17 per 100,000) and Mid-Hudson (12.77 per 100,000) regions. Long Island's rate of new cases per 100,000 residents (8.98) over the last week is lower than the statewide average and New York City's is even lower (9.03), even as its mayor warned that he was concerned about the recent growth of the city's rolling positivity rate.
New York City's numbers had improved slightly Friday over Thursday, including the seven-day rolling positivity average (1.87 percent vs 1.92 percent), which Mayor Bill de Blasio describes as the "most objective" measure of standing in the COVID war. And while the mayor breathed a sigh of relief after Thursday's jump, the city is still not in a position to relax yet.
"So a little bit of stabilizing, a little bit of better news today, but we've got a long way to go," de Blasio said.
Statewide, the numbers are going up across the board, even as New York continues to hold the third-lowest positivity rate in the nation, according to Johns Hopkins data. Daily virus totals still range above 2,000, although slightly down from the nearly 2,500 reported Thursday. Cuomo reported 2,255 cases Friday and another 2,049 on Saturday. The state also saw more than 1,000 total hospitalizations Saturday for an ninth straight day, which it hasn't done since it first came down off that 1,000 marker toward the end of June.
All hospitals in the state are supposed to keep at least a third of their regular beds and a third of their ICU beds open to handle any potential resurgence. As of Saturday, the state was short on the regular bed goal (25 percent). Long Island had just 21 percent open, while New York City only had 19 percent available. Both areas were low on ICU beds, too. Still, hospitals say they feel "very confident" in their ability to handle a resurgence, armed with hard-earned lessons from the spring.
Daily Percentage of Positive Tests by New York Region
Gov. Andrew Cuomo breaks the state into 10 regions for testing purposes and tracks positivity rates to identify potential hotspots. Here's the latest tracking data by region and for the five boroughs. For the latest county-level results statewide, click here
New York's recent upticks, while anxiety-inducing for some who live there, are marginal -- for now -- compared with what the rest of the United States is seeing. Cases are rising in virtually every state and deaths in most. The United States smashed its daily case record for the fifth time since last week on Friday, surpassing 90,000 per day for the second time (98,583 to be exact) as the case total continued past 9 million.
Across the Northeast, which seemed to have brought the virus under control over the summer, many states are seeing record numbers of new infections, prompting some to weigh new restrictions as the colder months and holiday season loom.
The out-of-state threat only compounds the threat at home, as all three tri-state governors face varying increases of COVID cases and hospitalizations, along with overall positivity rates, in their respective states. Cuomo's micro-cluster strategy is ongoing in certain highly specific geographic areas of Brooklyn, Queens, Rockland, Orange and other counties. The largest city in New Jersey has implemented new virus control measures to curb its recent case surge.
New Jersey hasn't implemented any new sweeping statewide restrictions or even geographically targeted ones as Cuomo has done, but Murphy told CNN Friday that he would impose more ranging shutdowns if it came to that.
"We shut as aggressively as any American state in March. We've done it before, if we had to we would do it again, but, please, God, I hope we don't have to get to that, Murphy said Friday. "I mean, it's not March, April, May, which was probably a 12 out of 10, but it's probably seven, eight. And everything's on the table."
A short time later, he reported 2,089 new COVID cases overnight, the first time New Jersey has seen single-day numbers of that volume since early May. The months-long high in new daily cases came a day after Murphy declared that the long-feared second wave of coronavirus is no longer a theoretical.
"It's coming. And it's coming now," a somber Murphy said Thursday.