NEW YORK CITY — City officials on Tuesday pledged to step up enforcement of coronavirus quarantine measures for those traveling over the holidays, threatening to impose financial penalties on people who fail to follow the rules.
In a Tuesday morning press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio began by imploring New Yorkers not to travel at all, noting that he would be separated from loved ones whom he normally sees every Thanksgiving.
"If you do not need to travel, don't travel," he said.
Acknowledging that some are still likely to hit the road, de Blasio said deputies from the New York City Sheriff's office — a once-obscure agency that has been charged with enforcing COVID-19 restrictions — will be policing adherence to the state's policy that out-of-state travelers self-quarantine for 14 days unless they show negative tests from before and after their arrival.
"Sheriff teams will be out in force as the holidays approach," Sheriff Joseph Fucito said.
Fucito said vehicle checkpoints will be set up at bridges and other crossings around the city and at curbside drop-off spots for buses entering from out-of-state.
Those who violate the order may be issued mandatory quarantine orders from the sheriff's department, and could be subject to misdemeanor fines between $1,000 and $2,000.
Still, Fucito said the sheriff's office plans to focus mostly on breaking up large gatherings, like the parties shut down over the weekend in Astoria and Midtown Manhattan. He said deputy sheriffs were investigating other "massive events" including "illegal fight clubs, underground raves and illegal gambling dens."
La Guardia and JFK airports are both hosting free coronavirus testing sites run by the New York City Health & Hospitals system, giving travelers the chance to obtain a test immediately after they arrive.
De Blasio defended the city's enforcement after a New York Post reporter questioned its effectiveness thus far, citing an enormous, secret wedding in Williamsburg earlier this month and reports that the city's nightlife had simply moved underground.
"They've shut down lots of events," the mayor said of city authorities. Fucito said Tuesday that his office had already issued some misdemeanors for violating quarantine rules, but did not say how many had been given out.
Also on Tuesday, de Blasio paid tribute to former Mayor David Dinkins, who died Monday at the age of 93. De Blasio, whose political career began as a volunteer on Dinkins' 1989 campaign, sounded emotional as he described his former boss as "a guiding hand" in the lives of those he mentored.
"He simply put us on a better path," de Blasio said. "He did it with heart and warmth and love, he was animated by love for people, all people."