HUDSON VALLEY, NY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted New York's coronavirus state-by-state travel advisory and instituted new rules for visitors to the state and New Yorkers who leave and return.
He also set new rules for schools in New York's micro-cluster red, orange and yellow zones.
New York has been requiring travelers from states with more than 10 percent positivity rates.
"The list started small and then the list got longer and longer and longer and longer," he said. Then Connecticut and New Jersey hit the metric.
Now Cuomo has jettisoned the quarantine list.
The new policy is that all travelers must test negative for COVID-19 within three days before arriving in New York. Then, after arrival, travelers must quarantine for three days. They may take a test on the fourth day. If the test is returned negative, the quarantine restrictions can be lifted.
New Yorkers who travel outside of the state for less than 24 hours must take a COVID-19 test within four days upon returning.
"There will be one rule that applies across the country," he said Saturday. "Once you arrive in New York, you must quarantine for three days and then can take a test on the fourth day and if the test on the fourth day says you are negative, then God bless, you're released from quarantine. If the test says you're positive, then you remain in quarantine. If you choose not to get tested, then you remain in quarantine for the 14-day period. But I don't know why anybody would do that."
It applies to every state except New Jersey and Connecticut, where interaction is constant.
The new micro-cluster guidelines require mass testing in schools before they reopen followed by vigilant symptom and exposure screening conducted daily. Affected schools can reopen as early as Monday — however students and faculty must be able to provide a negative COVID-19 test result prior to going back to the classroom.
"In the micro-cluster zones, we've been working with schools in the red and the orange zones. The schools, private schools, Catholic schools, yeshivas, want to be open in the red and orange zones, and we've been working with them to try to find ways to keep people safe but allow children to go to school," Cuomo said Friday. "We have agreed with them on a protocol that keeps people safe and allows children to be educated."
In order for a school to reopen in a red or orange micro-cluster zones, schools must:
Remain closed for at least 4 calendar days after the zone designation is announced (48 hours to ensure lack of infectious contact in the school, and additional time for testing), and may re-open as early as the 5th calendar day.
Ensure that no person may attend in-person on the campus without first receiving a negative test result, this applies to faculty/staff as well as students.
Schools may reopen after these steps are taken, with students and faculty/staff who are positive or close contacts of positive cases appropriately excluded from school grounds. Additionally, the test result must be no more 7 days past the date of specimen collection on the day in-person learning reopens and date of specimen collection must be after date the zone was established.
After a school reopens in a red or orange micro-cluster zone, vigilant symptom and exposure screening must be conducted daily and must follow the below guidelines:
25% of the in-person learning school community (both students and faculty/staff) must be tested per week.
The school should ensure that it provides opportunities to test on school grounds, or otherwise facilitates testing and accepts test results from healthcare providers.
If the school does not hold a testing event or provide testing on school grounds, test results provided to the school as part of the 25% testing of the population must be received within 7 days from the date of specimen collection and specimen collection must be after the school reopens.
Each week the 25% of the school population tested must be composed of unique individuals who have not previously been tested for the surveillance screening, as part of the weekly 25% testing until the fifth week of weekly testing at which point the individuals who participated in the first week of testing should be tested again.
Members of the school community who test positive must isolate according to established guidelines.
Contact tracing must be performed to ensure that contacts to newly identified positive individuals are quarantined according to established guidelines.
New York State will provide schools with rapid test kits if requested. The schools must provide certified personnel (with necessary laboratory permits) to do the tests, and all results must be entered into ECLRS and reported on the school survey to the NYS COVID-19 Report Card.
Schools that cannot meet the reopening requirements must remain in remote learning for the duration of the zone designation. If the 25% of the school population random sampling generates a minimum of 9 cases, or if for a sample size of more than 300 weekly tests, achieves a positivity rate of 2% (6 cases or more depending on size) in New York City, or 3% (9 or more cases) outside of the city, then the school will be required to close. Reopened schools that fail to comply with these requirements could be subject to Section 16 orders, or other fines and penalties.
New York continues to be one of the most coronavirus-free states, with a test-positivity rate of 1.3 percent as of Thursday, Cuomo said in a Saturday afternoon briefing.
The micro-clusters in Orange and Rockland counties, where cases and hospitalizations began spiking a month ago, are subsiding.
Cuomo warned residents that the process of getting vaccines to the public won't be simple or fast if only the federal government's plan to have the private sector administering vaccines is followed.
"I was on a call today held by the White House Coronavirus Task Force to talk about the vaccine process. Dr. Birx made the point on the call of asking the governors to make sure they're urging masks.
On their vaccination plan, I think it's deeply flawed because the premise of the plan is what they call a public-private sector partnership, which sounds great. But, the main distribution would be private pharmacies. CVS, Walgreens, et cetera, and private providers. That is a very limited distribution mechanism. They do not provide for a state to organize vaccination with state personnel on any scale. So you have a limited distribution network.
It's the same private-sector network now doing the testing, and that capacity is known, he said.
"For example, we use this network to do the COVID testing, and we have done in New York 13 million tests over seven months," he said. "Instead of doing 13 million COVID tests we'd have to do 40 million vaccinations ... It would take one year to vaccinate the population using only the private sector network."