What to Know
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo says out-of-state travel and slipping compliance are compounding threats; he remains unsatisfied with NYC's enforcement tactics on the bar and restaurant front and concerned about school spikes
- Going forward, every school district will have to submit COVID reports to the state daily -- and the state will issue COVID "report cards" for every school in the state, Cuomo said Tuesday.
- Currently, travelers from 35 "hotspot" states and territories must quarantine for 14 days after arriving in New Jersey, New York or Connecticut; Delaware, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia -- were added Tuesday
Sheriff deputies will begin stopping buses headed to Port Authority from viral U.S. hotspots as part of New York City's continued effort to stem any travel-related upticks in virus cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday. They'll give riders contact forms to fill out with their information and quarantine plans.
It's the latest measure the mayor has introduced to help enforce the tri-state quarantine order, which requires travelers from U.S. places with high viral rates to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. In recent weeks, de Blasio has authorized random vehicular checkpoints and ordered hotels to deny travelers room access if they refuse to fill out the form.
De Blasio has said up to 20 percent of New York City's COVID-19 cases have stemmed from out-of-state travel. Travelers who land at New York airports from one of the hotspots must also fill out a form or potentially face a $2,000 fine.
The restrictions have been in place for months, following a late-June announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Gov. Phil Murphy and Gov. Ned Lamont. The quarantine-restricted list is comprised of states and territories seeing COVID positivity rates of 10 percent or higher over a seven-day rolling period. Tri-state residents who visit one of the viral hotspots are also required to self-isolate.
Four states -- Delaware, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia -- were added to the quarantine list Tuesday, bringing the total number of affected U.S. states and jurisdictions to 35. In addition to those four, the restricted list includes: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Officials are closely watching COVID numbers for any uptick, given the heightened travel that usually comes in tandem with the long Labor Day weekend. That's especially true in New York, the former epicenter of the national crisis, which is celebrating a full month of daily COVID positivity test rates below 1 percent.
Cuomo and other Northeast governors had discouraged people from traveling out of state for the holiday weekend, urging residents not to make the same mistakes some did over Memorial Day and July Fourth. Public health officials pushed the same message; the U.S. could be at a key juncture in its ongoing COVID war.
“I look upon the Labor Day weekend really as a critical point," the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said. "Are we going to go in the right direction and continue the momentum downward, or are we going to have to step back a bit as we start another surge?”
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy told CNN Tuesday his team hadn't noticed a sizeable uptick from Labor Day weekend, based on anecdotal evidence so far.
"We're gathering the data, still this was an incredibly good weekend.” Murphy said. "This is a virus that is still among us. It ebbs and flows. We'll do everything we can to obviously monitor it but also put the policies in place that will keep it in a box and that's what we're trying to do every day.”
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
Apart from out-of-state travel, the other prime threat to the region is slipping compliance at home. And with schools and more businesses reopening in the coming weeks, post-Labor Day marks a new phase for the area's COVID fight.
Already, the impacts are evident.
A cluster of cases connected to end-of-summer parties on Long Island has already forced one school district to cancel in-person learning, just two days before the scheduled start of classes. The Carle Place School District said a number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 "had close or proximate contact with other students throughout our district."
"As we are learning the hard way, the actions of a few can impact the many. Please, be sure to practice social distancing protocols: refrain from large indoor gatherings, stay six feet apart, and wear a mask," Superintendent of Schools Christine A. Finn wrote in a letter to parents.
A number of colleges have also had to send students home for the remainder of the fall semester because of outbreaks. SUNY Oneonta did so last week as its COVID-19 cases spiked near 400, due in large part to illegal partying. Of nearly 2,000 tests in Oneonta conducted over a five-day period, 91 came back positive for an infection rate of 4.6 percent. Testing data showed 93 percent of the positives were among people ages 18-24, Cuomo said over the long weekend.
"Colleges are a problem and continue to be a problem," he reiterated on Tuesday. His team believes out-of-state students on local campuses are contributing heavily to the spikes.
At NYU, officials are threatening disciplinary action to any students involved in a gathering of hundreds Saturday night in Washington Square Park. The school says more than 20 students have been already suspended for failing to comply with coronavirus safety protocols like social distancing and mask-wearing.
Going forward, every school district will have to submit COVID reports to the state daily -- and the state will issue COVID "report cards" for every school in the state, Cuomo said Tuesday. The accounting will include positive cases of students and staff and daily testing data, among other metrics. And if any school or college campus reaches 100 COVID cases, it will have to move to all-remote immediately.
Most New York City teachers, meanwhile, head back to their physical school buildings Tuesday. They'll have a few extra days of prep time, then move to a three-day transitional remote instruction period next week. In-person classes are scheduled to begin on Sept. 21; if that happens, New York City will be the largest public district to have pupils physically in school buildings during the pandemic.
Even so, indoor dining remains shelved indefinitely in the five boroughs. Cuomo has said he's not satisfied with the level of enforcement New York City has presented, relying solely on sheriff deputies, he says, instead of NYPD en masse.
The governor has put together a state task force of inspectors that checked out nearly 5,000 bars and restaurants in the city and on Long Island over the long Labor Day weekend. More than three dozen violations were issued -- and Cuomo says the state's capacity to continue such enforcement efforts is reaching a max.
"If you increase indoor dining, you are going to have to have a compliance and enforcement function. If you go to indoor dining, you are roughly doubling the number of indoor places that you will have to monitor," the governor said Tuesday, noting that even a handful of rogue businesses can have a dramatic impact. "This is not without risk. We're managing risk. There is no zero risk."
Cuomo stressed yet again Tuesday that he won't move on indoor dining in New York City until de Blasio's administration develops a more comprehensive enforcement strategy. It can involve health and industry inspectors, not just police, he said -- any regulatory compliance officer can be detailed on that front.
Cuomo has hailed New York's sustained progress as being in remarkable defiance of expert predictions; it went from being the former epicenter of the national crisis to having one of the lowest COVID transmission rates in the country. Total hospitalizations are at six-month lows and daily deaths are in the single digits.
But the Empire State must remain ever-vigilant, its governor says: "Our actions today determine the rate of infection tomorrow."
Over the holiday weekend, the U.S. topped 190,000 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a tally by NBC News. With 6.2 million confirmed cases, the U.S. has the largest coronavirus case count of any country in the world. The three tri-states alone account for nearly three-quarters of a million cases.
"This nation loses more people per day to COVID than any nation on the globe," Cuomo said Tuesday. "You know who did that? Donald Trump's incompetence. And now they won't provide federal funding to repair the ambush they created."