New York

Leaving NY for Thanksgiving? What You Need to Know Before Coming Back

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Are you traveling to or from New York around the Thanksgiving holiday? Don't forget your COVID test.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's current travel advisory requires all incoming travelers test negative for the virus before entering the state. Despite repeated warnings to stay home for the holidays in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, millions are expected to be on the move.

Air travel saw a spike the weekend before Thanksgiving. TSA data show more than 900,000 people flew each day from Thursday through Sunday last week, the highest four-day stretch of travel volume since mid-March. Sunday's 1.048 million travelers was the highest single-day figure since March 16.

Thanksgiving air travel is on the rise despite warnings from the CDC. Ted Greenberg reports.

"You should not land if you do not have proof of a negative test upon landing," Cuomo said in early Nov. after instituting his latest advisory for the state.

It requires travelers to provide a negative COVID test before traveling to New York and to take another one four days after they arrive. If that second test is negative, they need not quarantine for 14 days. New Yorkers returning from travel under 24 hours outside the state don't need to take a test before returning but must do so after they re-enter. In his initial announcement on the test policy, Cuomo had said failure to comply comes with mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The testing mandate for people entering the state does not apply to neighboring New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Vermont 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.

Two million people made their way past airport checkpoints on Friday and Saturday, according to the TSA, even as COVID cases rise throughout the United States. For some, spending months cooped up and the pull of seeing family and friends feels stronger than the risk of infection.

Cuomo said airlines and the Port Authority are both assisting on the entry test front; the airlines are disseminating the information and the Port Authority is aware that travelers should provide evidence of the test upon landing. He also said officials can check with passengers' departure states to verify test results.

While Cuomo did not provide details on how frequently travelers would be checked, the governor also said he had spoken with Mayor Bill de Blasio about enhancing NYPD presence to assist with the same. He also said he'd increase National Guard presence at New York airports.

Comparing the expected uptick in coronavirus cases following Thanksgiving gatherings to the average American gaining weight after the holidays, Cuomo warned Sunday "it's literally up to you" to control the spread of the virus by following public health guidelines that have been repeated over and over for the past nine months.

Those looking to travel for Thanksgiving waited for hours at places across the city before the holiday, as lines stretched around blocks at testing centers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that traveling can increase someone's chance of spreading and becoming infected with the coronavirus. The safest option is to stay home, the CDC's guidance says.

When it comes to traveling by air, people should be aware that the risk isn't limited to sitting on the plane alone, said Keri Althoff, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, during a media call Thursday.

The virus positivity rate continues to rise steadily in the tri-state. New Jersey and Connecticut are above 3 percent, and New York is approaching that benchmark. Adam Harding reports.

Althoff cautioned that standing in line, especially if travelers are less than 6 feet away from other people, could increase their risk. People should also avoid touching their masks and faces because airports are full of high-touch areas, such as bathrooms.

"It's not just what's going on in the airplane, but it's the whole experience," Althoff said. "And so doing everything you can to reduce your exposures if you do choose to travel or, given the quick acceleration in cases in the country right now, choosing to stay home may be the best option."

For those traveling by car, don't expect to see empty roads on the way to relatives' houses. Motor group AAA estimates that Thanksgiving travel by car will be down overall (at least 10 percent), but that people who are traveling to see family are more likely to drive because they can change their plans at the last minute.

New restrictions begin Wednesday for parts of New York City as COVID-19 patients overwhelm hospitals in one of its boroughs, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reopen an emergency field hospital as health officials anticipate another surge in the states rising infection rate. NBC New York's Ray Villeda reports.
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