40 U.S. Areas Now on NY Quarantine List; Cuomo Says Avoid Non-Essential Tri-State Travel

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has acknowledged the upticks in neighboring states are concerning, but he consistently says it's not practical to try to do any kind of border control with New Jersey, Connecticut or Pennsylvania

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What to Know

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not change his thresholds for the quarantine list Tuesday following a pitch by CT Gov. Ned Lamont to loosen criteria a day earlier; Lamont said enforcement had become difficult
  • New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania all now meet the threshold to be on the list, but Cuomo says that's not practical; he instead is urging people to avoid non-essential tri-state travel
  • As of Tuesday, 40 U.S. states and territories are on the quarantine list in New York; Lamont said later in the day he would not adjust the metrics in CT, saying the tri-state should act as one region

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday that 40 U.S. hotspots are on the New York quarantine list, apparently unmoved by Connecticut's pitch to loosen criteria as it, along with New Jersey and Pennsylvania, now meet the threshold for inclusion.

New York will not move to add either of those three states to its quarantine order; Cuomo has repeatedly said that would be impractical. A joint statement from Cuomo, Gov. Phil Murphy and Gov. Ned Lamont said that all unnecessary or non-essential travel between the states should be avoided, but residents who do cross state lines will not have to quarantine if coming from a neighboring state.

"Our states have worked together successfully in combating this pandemic since the beginning and we'll continue to do so," the governors' statement read, which also boasted about the states having some of the lowest infection rates in the country. "The travel advisory was designed to keep our respective states safe, with the understanding that we are a connected region, dependent on each other when it comes to commerce, education, and health care."

Cuomo said more details regarding any restrictions will come on Wednesday after speaking with Lamont and Murphy. It wasn't immediately clear what limiting tri-state travel would look like or how it could be enforced, but Cuomo said earlier in the day that it's a more sensical option than a quarantine.

"We are now in a situation where 43 states meet the criteria for our travel advisory. This is really a bizarre outcome, considering New York once had the highest infection rate," Cuomo said Tuesday. "There is no practical way to quarantine New York from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut. There are just too many interchanges, interconnections, and people who live in one place and work in the other. It would have a disastrous effect on the economy."

On Monday, Lamont said he wanted to tweak quarantine criteria because having more than three-quarters of America on the advisory had become unmanageable from an enforcement perspective. Cuomo says it's just the "bizarre" reality of the current situation in the United States, which is battling yet another surge in cases.

With the number of infections once again climbing at a rapid rate, infectious disease experts warn the "darkest days" of the pandemic may still be ahead.

At least seven U.S. states have recently set new records for single-day increases in coronavirus cases, prompting some to set new restrictions as concerns mount over possible "superspreader events" during the upcoming holiday season. The situation globally isn't much better; the world topped 40 million cases on Monday.

Currently, the quarantine list in New York applies to U.S. jurisdictions that either have at least a 10 percent positivity rate on a seven-day rolling average or more than 10 new cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day rolling average. Both Connecticut (11.2) and New Jersey (10.3) hit that new case threshold on Monday (New York is averaging seven new cases per 100,000 residents over the last week), but their positivity rates remain well below the 10 percent threshold.

Lamont had pitched switching to an "and" threshold scenario rather than the "or" involving positivity rates and new cases per 100,000 residents. Under his plan, from which he has since backed down, the same new case average threshold would apply, but a state must hit that, along with averaging a 5 percent positivity rate, to land on the list. That would keep New Jersey and Connecticut off it in theory -- but it's a moot point because Cuomo says he wouldn't add those neighboring states to it anyway.

After Cuomo's announcement Tuesday, Lamont said he would not shift Connecticut's metrics after all, saying it was more appropriate for the tri-state to act as one region: "That said, we urge everybody to stay close to home as best you can … there’s no need to do non-essential travel."

New York may have to consider changes to its quarantine rules for out-of-state travelers now that two of its closest neighbors, Connecticut and New Jersey, are on the brink of getting added to the list of places subject to the restrictions. NBC New York's Katherine Creag reports.

Asked Tuesday for Murphy's response to Cuomo's comments, a spokesperson pointed to the governor's words in his briefing a day earlier: Avoid what travel you can, not including going to work across the river, and just be smart.

"Traveling into New York and then coming back to New Jersey, to my way of thinking, is not a quarantine event. But we're just asking folks to be smart," Murphy said Monday. "The numbers are up, they're up, up and down the state. Yes, there have been some hotspots, but the number of hotspots is now broadening. This is what we're living with right now in our state and in our country."

As of Tuesday, Cuomo said 40 U.S. states and territories are on the quarantine list, an increase of two from last week. Arizona and Maryland were re-added, while no hotspots were removed. The restrictions now apply to Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

The quarantine advisory -- or order, depending on which state you're in -- has been in place since late June, when the three tri-state governors implemented it to protect their COVID-19 progress from the tide of out-of-state travel. People traveling to the tri-state area, even if they call it home, must self-isolate for 14 days after arriving from one of the U.S. hotspots on the list. Heavy fines apply.

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


While New York has faced its own cluster problems in recent weeks, Cuomo emphasizes that the overall infection rate remains low, even with the highest-risk spots, the so-called red zones, included. The red zones have seen notable progress since Cuomo launched his "micro-cluster" strategy, applying restrictions to narrowly targeted geographic areas rather than sweeping statewide closures.

As of Tuesday, Cuomo said the average red zone positivity rate was 2.9 percent, down from 3.3 percent the day before and markedly down from the nearly 7 percent positivity rates they were averaging just a few weeks ago. The governor said he expects to realign the cluster zone maps, potentially relaxing some restrictions in certain hotspot areas, like central Queens, as early as Wednesday.

According to Tuesday data from Johns Hopkins, New York has the third-lowest infection rate in the nation, based on a seven-day rolling period (1.17 percent). Only Massachusetts (1.14 percent) and Maine (0.36 percent) have lower positivity rates on a weekly basis. The state with the highest, Nevada, has a rolling positivity average nearly 40 times higher than New York's (45.97 percent).

New Jersey and Connecticut, despite their upticks, both still are among the 15 lowest-transmission rate states -- 2.89 percent and 1.85 percent, respectively.

Schools continue to be a bright spot in New York City, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. He said Tuesday that of 16,348 COVID tests conducted on students and staff between Oct. 9 and Oct. 16, just 28 were positive -- a rate of 0.17 percent.

City schools have launched random monthly testing as part of a deal with the teachers' union. Those in yellow zones, by Cuomo's cluster maps, must conduct randomized testing on a weekly basis for students in grades 1-12 as well as staff.

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