Cuomo to deploy National Guard troops to NY airports for COVID-19 enforcement as infection rate rises

Denis Slattery, Michael Gartland and Chris Sommerfeldt, New York Daily News

NEW YORK — National Guard troops will be deployed to New York airports to make sure arriving travelers have proof of recently testing negative for COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

The deployment follows a sweeping new entry test policy announced a week ago after the Empire State abandoned its travel advisory that mandated travelers from coronavirus hotspots quarantine for two weeks.

“I want people to know we’re serious,” the governor said during a conference call with reporters. “You should not land if you do not have proof of a negative test upon landing,”

Airlines, the NYPD and the Port Authority are assisting with the effort.

Under the current rules, travelers arriving without proof of a negative test won’t be stopped from entering the state, but must quarantine for 14 days. Individuals who can prove they tested negative will still have to quarantine for three days upon arrival in New York and then must take a second test. If that’s negative, they no longer have to self-isolate.

If a test comes back positive, local health officials will issue isolation orders and initiate contact tracing to identify and quarantine other people exposed to the virus. Anyone caught violating a quarantine order could face a civil penalty of up to $10,000. The testing mandate does not apply to neighboring states.

The governor also announced Friday that COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in some city “hot spots” while noting that the state’s overall positivity rate ticked up to 1.9% as cases continue to skyrocket across the country and Mayor de Blasio warned that New York City is “now really threatened with a second wave” of the pandemic.

The city’s daily COVID-19 count climbed by 702 cases Friday, de Blasio said, and the daily infection rate in the five boroughs is now 1.81% with a seven-day average rate of 1.96%.

“Not good,” the mayor told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer. “That’s a problem. That says that we are now really threatened with a second wave in New York City if we don’t quickly get a handle on this. And that says that we really need to emphasize the mask-wearing, the social distancing, avoiding gatherings and, sadly, avoiding travel and large family gatherings for the holidays.”

De Blasio also said he would resume the city’s release of coronavirus data by zip code next week to help parents make a decision on whether they want their kids in remote or blended model learning.

The city opened a two-week window this week for parents of students who are currently enrolled in fully remote learning to opt into the hybrid curriculum.

Despite the infection rate uptick, Cuomo said New York’s faring far better than most other states, with some outbreaks subsiding.

The so-called red and yellow zones in southern Brooklyn, where school and business closures were met with fierce opposition last month, are improving to the degree that Cuomo said he’s reducing their size by 50%. A zone in Far Rockaway, Queens, is being eliminated entirely, he added.

However, restrictions will be implemented in other parts of the state that are experiencing outbreaks, Cuomo said, including Portchester in Westchester County.

Some areas upstate are also emerging as “micro-clusters” because of increasing levels of positive cases and will soon see restrictions as well.

“Western New York is a problem,” the governor said, noting that the state will likely announce new measures Monday, including closing businesses and schools and placing restrictions on gatherings in some areas near Buffalo.

“We are obviously in a different phase with COVID,” Cuomo said. “We’ve been talking about it for weeks but we have to acknowledge it. The numbers are changing all across the globe, all across the country. The challenge for our state is managing the increase.”

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